Monday, November 1, 2010

Harvard Forest

The Fisher Museum includes the famous
landscape dioramas. Built in the 1930s, they
have stood the test of time both physically
and intellectually.
On Saturday, October 30, students in Dr. Hayes-Bohanan's GEOG 332 course on land protection embarked on what has become a nearly annual tradition in the department: a field trip to Harvard Forest.

The course begins with readings of Henry David Thoreau's diaries, as analyzed by Harvard Forest director David Foster in his book Thoreau's Country. Foster mines Thoreau's writings for lessons about changes in the New England landscape. By the time of this field trip, students are well aware that the landscape shown at right would be typical of most of New England in Thoreau's lifetime, when forest cover reached its low point at 20 percent of the region. As Dr. John O'Keefe -- former director of the Fisher Museum at the forest -- explained to our group, the forest cover would have been even lower, but roughly 20 percent had to remain in forest to provide the 30 cords of wood needed each year for cooking and heating on an average farm.

The remainder of the semester will be spent studying the management implications of these lessons, as students learn about the work of land trusts, conservation commissioners, and other institutions involved in protecting the various values of open space. The visit to Harvard Forest and the related readings on forest ecology make the importance and challenges of land protection much easier to understand.
John O'Keefe's guided tour of the forest literally breathes life
into many of the readings about forest ecology. 
Photo credit: Nicole Sauber
Students in GEOG 332 never forget two important lessons about
New England forests. Forests are always in a state of change and
stone walls (lower-right of photo) are clues to forest history.

Photo credit: Nicole Sauber

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