Hello everybody! My name is Katie McGee and I am an undergraduate research fellow (affectionately shortened to “URF”) here at the Center for Tree Science at the Morton Arboretum for the summer of 2017! Academically, I am a senior honors biology student at James Madison University with a concentration in ecology and environmental biology. Personally, I am a Girl Scout that never grew up! I love hiking, camping and singing slightly off key while doing fieldwork. Luckily, my audience is only trees.
This summer I am working with my mentor, Dr. Silvia Alvarez-Clare, expanding on 2016 fellowship research that found annual fires increased soil nitrogen (N). My project is studying how the soil N in different fire management areas affect leaf N levels in the canopy of four common tree species. I am also studying the seedling populations in my plots so I can see how the fire and nitrogen are changing the next generation of trees. While I am confident in my project now, the first two weeks were a loop of brainstorming and trial/error to nail down my project.
Week three and now week four are keeping me busy in the field. I counted over 4,000 seedlings between the two plots I set up last Thursday and Saturday alone! Only one plot left to set up before we collect leaf samples this Friday! Keep an eye out for my next blog on how we collect leaves from giant canopy trees!
While it is tedious work setting up accurate plots, I love every second of working outside: rain or shine! It is fulfilling to know that the data I am collecting brings us one-step closer to managing our forests to the best of our abilities!