Research & Opportunities
Students are actively engaged in research at MacLeish related to the hemlock woolly adelgid, groundwater quality, precipitation throughfall, the mitigation of invasive species such as multiflora rose and oriental bittersweet, and historic use of the property. Faculty from the department of dance have used MacLeish as an inspirational and performance space for their courses, and studio art students are currently working on outdoor installation pieces. Over the course of this academic year, 16 classes comprising more than 200 students have visited MacLeish.
Specific research projects include:
Hemlock Wooly Adelgid
Invasive pests, especially in conjunction with climate change, have the potential to transform the species composition of many forests. In the northeastern United States, the hemlock woolly adelgid poses a significant threat to eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). This pest, which kills infested hemlocks within a few years, arrived in western Massachusetts over the last ten to fifteen years and is steadily making its way into southern Vermont and New Hampshire. Replacement of hemlock forests by other species, such as birch, maple, and oak, may alter geochemistry and hydrology, and Professors Amy Rhodes and Andrew Guswa are working to understand these potential impacts. During the summer of 2011, Professors Rhodes and Guswa are engaging five Smith students in these research investigations, two of whom are funded by the Center for the Environment.
Blight resistant chestnut hybrids will soon be available in large enough numbers to begin restoring the American chestnut into natural forests. With this prospect in mind, the Center for the Environment is sponsoring and supporting a series of experiments at the MacLeish Field Station with the goal of testing methods of restoring American chestnut hybrids into various natural forest communities of southern New England. These experiments include an investigation of chestnut seed germination ecology in a natural setting, the growth response of seedlings to forest gaps of varying size, the competitive interactions of chestnut with other native hardwoods, and an examination of the chestnut's response along a soil moisture gradient.
The chestnut project will be designed to provide several levels or access points for student involvement. For example, the very interested student could use the chestnut project to develop her own one to two semester-long research project under the umbrella of the broader experiment, enabling her to work at the MacLeish Field Station and potentially develop connections with the American Chestnut Foundation at the state and national levels. For students with less time to commit to an independent project, but with strong interests in conservation, this project has the potential to provide a larger number of students with the chance to work on American chestnut conservation for a day.