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Learning Excursion: Summer Soil Institute

Posted by Ashley

This June, Fiona and I got the chance to travel to Colorado State University and learn about all aspects of soil ecology from the awesome researchers in the CSU Natural Resource Ecology Lab in Fort Collins, CO. We were excited to learn all about the different dimensions of soil ecology that might be important to our research, but that we don’t usually think much about.

Using a hammer corer to collect surface soil from a montane pine forest impacted by wildfire and mountain pine beetle

We learned about techniques for sampling soil and felt a little bit jealous of the lack of rocks in the forest and grassland soils of Colorado.

We also learned about the various invertebrates that live in soil, their functions, and how to quantify their abundance in space and time.

Ashley with former lab-mate Melanie Taylor investigating the soil invertebrates of a grassland soil sample

We noticed dramatic differences in the soil from Colorado compared to New England, and we’re feeling quite proud of our beautiful soil horizons in the northeast!

A soil profile from a shortgrass steppe in Colorado


We also had some time to travel around the region, and we stopped for a bit to camp in beautiful Wyoming.

At the end of the trip, we rounded off the Colorado experience with a quick hike up to Emmaline Lake near the CSU Mountain Campus. We saw some beautiful landscapes and looked a little closer and the plant and fungal communities we were hiking past.

Emmaline Lake, a glacial lake near the border of Rocky Mountain National Park
A lovely waterfall on the way up to the lake
Cirque Meadow on the way back down from the lake (after the morning fog had cleared).

We had such a great time in Colorado, and now that we’re back home, it’s time to apply our new knowledge to our research questions!