Next Big Step – Identifying Oaks!

As I’ve previously mentioned, each year of this project, students have been able to figure out how to identify more and more species, especially juvenile individuals. The next genus I plan to attack is the oak family (the genus Quercus). There are 10 species of oaks in the College Woods, and while some are more common than others, it is still difficult to tell the species apart in juveniles.

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Vaccinium vs Gaylussacia

One of my major issues this summer has been fixing errors and figuring out unknowns in previous years’ data. I’m the first person that has looked at all of the data as a whole, and as each person that has worked on this project has entered their data in a slightly different way, it’s been a long and confusing job trying to put it all in the same format. As I mentioned in my last blog post, each year the students working on this project have figured out how to identify more and more of the most difficult plants. That means that part of my job has been trying to use the information we know now to try to go back and figure out the identity of plants that previous years’ students were stumped by.

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Herbarium Help: Figuring Out Unknowns

The second part of my research this summer is dealing with the data, both my data from this summer and data from previous years. Part of this means trying to figure out the identify of our “unknowns:” plants that are particularly hard to identify out in the field. Most of the problem comes down to the fact that the majority of the plants we’ve been trying to identify are juveniles less than four years old. There are almost no manuals on how to identify juvenile plants, which can look very different from the adults, so we’ve had to figure most of these out on our own. Each year’s research students working on this project have figured out how to identify a new group of problem plants and their contributions have been invaluable to my research.

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