Thursday, August 20, 2015

TeenNat Fern Research

Amanda Yarger (left) points to a data sheet
(Photo by Richard Morgenstein) 
By Amanda Yarger, TeenNat Intern
June 23, 2015

TeenNat is an internship program for teens offered by Pepperwood. Each week of this internship has a different emphasis. During one week of TeenNat, we researched redwoods and ferns. We were researching how ferns affect redwoods and how the ferns themselves are changing. Specifically, we were doing research on sword ferns. We were researching how the drought has affected the ferns and redwoods.

Amanda takes a picture
(photo by 
Richard Morgenstein)
TeenNat interns in Pepperwood's redwood forest
(photo by 
Deborah Zeirten)
Before I started working with the ferns, I knew nothing about them. Learning about ferns and how they affect the redwoods was a great experience. We were assigned random plots and we cataloged the ferns in each plot. We counted the number of ferns, their GPS location, and whether the fronds were fertile or infertile. Fronds are the leaves of the ferns. Because of the drought, we found that these fronds had been shorter than in past years. Not only that, but the number of fronds themselves had gone down. The most interesting thing however, was the decrease in spore count. The spores are called sori, and they are yellow or orange dots all over the fronds. Fronds that are not fertile do not have sori.

Redwoods at Pepperwood (photo by Richard Morgenstein)
Our findings varied from plot to plot. Some plots had one or two ferns, where others had as many as ten ferns. Each plot was different, and each one contained different information on the sword ferns. Our research required us to scale steep hills and push our way through bushes to get to the plots, but it was worth it. Our data was given to Emily Burns, the research director at Save the Redwoods League, who used the data to contribute to the information they had already collected at other sites. Our research was also the first “citizen-science effort to completely install and census Fern Watch plots independently.” It was hard work, but it was extremely rewarding. Not only was the research helpful to the redwood scientists, it was fun as well. I had a great time working with the ferns and redwoods.

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