Last month, two graduate students from the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University traveled to one of the most species-rich landscapes in the world: a remote strip of tropical rainforest at the narrowest point in the Central American country of Panama. Ben Goulet-Scott, a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB) and a fellow in the Arboretum’s Hopkins Lab, and Jacob Suissa, OEB Ph.D. candidate in the Friedman Lab at the Arboretum, hope their research in the Mamoní Valley Preserve in Panama will increase our understanding of how biodiversity can persevere in the face of climate change, deforestation, and human disturbance. The 20-square-mile land conservancy on the isthmus separating Central and South America teems with life, making the condensed rainforest habitat a perfect location for their research project because of the vast number of known and potentially undiscovered species living there, Goulet-Scott said. “New England has twice the land area of Panama, but half the number of bird species, and 10 times fewer reptiles and amphibians,” he said. “This particular location contains species that migrate or move from north to south and get funneled into this very narrow area, concentrating an incredible amount of biodiversity.”
The Mamoní Valley Preserve (MVP) Natural History Project is an ongoing series of student-led field expeditions, organized by Goulet-Scott in 2017.
As David Mays walked through the snow-covered Central Woods of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University last month, gazing at the red oaks and the eastern white pines, the 17-year-old wondered if trees alone can save the planet. “Are trees the only thing that will stop global warming?” Mays asked. “How many should we plant before we graduate? I want to support humans, nature, and save the Earth.”
Mays was one of 25 high school students from the Boston Day and Evening Academy in Roxbury learning about forest ecology, carbon’s role in ecosystems, and how trees mitigate climate change at a special program at the Arboretum. Designed as part of Boston Public School’s biology curriculum, the two-day experience let students conduct hands-on fieldwork in the landscape and engage with Harvard researchers in interactive panel discussions about climate change.
I try to keep my voice down when I speak of my love for winter. I’ve learned that almost no one wants to hear it. Yet at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, I fall in love with this stark but lovely season once again. It’s November on my first visit — everything is shades of brown and the sky is nearly entirely gray. Standing halfway up Peters Hill, the only sound is a nearby rustling in the bushes, then silence, then cawing overhead, then silence.
This spring, the greenhouses in the Weld Hill Research Building at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University will be overflowing with Phlox, fragrant flowers bursting with hues of violet, pink, red, and magenta. But it’s not their floral beauty or aroma that captivates Robin Hopkins, assistant professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard. Hopkins, who is head of the Hopkins Lab and a Faculty Fellow at the Arboretum, recently received a four-year, $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation Panel of Plant Biotic Interactions to study how a native Texas phlox species selects its mates. That is, she will work to identify which molecular signals are being stimulated by pollination, and see if the identity of the pollen changes the types of signals being triggered for reproduction. “The incredible diversity of floral color, shape, smell, and size evolved to entice pollinators to move pollen between plants,” Hopkins said.
As part of a city electric vehicle program, some municipal parking lots, including one on Centre Street, will have four to six parking spaces made into electric car charging stations. Boston has a stated goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, and transportation accounts for nearly a third of Boston's total carbon emissions, according to Boston.gov. Sixty-five percent of carbon emissions in Boston come from personal vehicles. As part of the Transportation Department's Recharge Boston program to support electric vehicles the city is encouraging drivers to use electric or zero emission vehicles. And most electric car owners charge their vehicles at home, but a city survey part of Boston's 2019 Climate Action Plan Update revealed that 45 percent of Bostonians would purchase an electric vehicle if they had access to a charger. But there aren't enough public electric car charging stations, so starting this winter and into the spring, the city will be installing four to six electric car charging stations in six lots.