Written for The Argo by Miguel Borbon
Continuing with Stockton’s Forest Management Plan, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Matthew Olson has been hard at work with collecting information and data on the different experimental plots around Stockton. Recently, Dr. Olson and his students, who are working on their own independent research projects, went out during the start of the semester (Jan and Feb) to take measurements and collect data of the different experimental plots of a long-term study investigating the effects of prescribed fire at Stockton University.
The area of study is located to the northwest of the main campus (closer to the Athletic Fields/ Lot 8) and have been undergoing different fire interval studies since the start of 2015. These different experimental plots are monitored for any potential changes in under-story vegetation, canopy trees, and surface fuel levels of the different study plots.
This work coincides with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service in which burns are prescribed to different areas along these fire interval studies to study its effect on forest ecology and to limit potential wildfire hazards that may occur during hot and dry seasons. With the work done, Dr. Olson and his crew are hoping to continue this long-term manipulative experiment. They also hope to understand more from these Fire Interval Studies to better manage the forests surrounding Stockton University.
The study is an important part of understanding forest health and safety. However, as we are a year into Stockton University’s initial lock-down (March 19th, 2020), Dr. Olson has continued to conduct forestry experiments including the Fire Interval experiment. On Saturday, March 13th, 2021, I went out to observe and potentially aid in any field work that Dr. Olson and his students were conducting at the time.
The students who have assisted in the study are Sam Dimacale, Gabrielle Worthington, and Makayla Wolf. The women are all working towards their concentration in Forest Management and have been given specific tasks to work on for their respective independent research. Field work was done even during the cold morning and continued into the afternoon. For Dr. Olson, COVID safety was at an utmost importance and at the time everyone was wearing masks and still maintained 6 feet of physical distancing.
Of course, with masks, it was difficult to adequately hear the data from each other as they worked more than 6 feet to measure different tree diameters and their location from different plot centers. As the information is presented, it does give way to potential errors in data collection, where masks may hinder the ability to hear the right measurements, potentially changing the outcome of the data collection. With field work comes the potential for hazardous conditions, (rain, snow, etc.) which became the case on Thursday March 18th, 2021, where heavy rain was consistent throughout the day.
However, the work continued through zoom where Dr. Olson assigned individual projects for all three students analyze. Even through zoom, the meeting came with usual internet connection issues and an awkward white noise that came to hinder some of the important information that was being said.