Master's thesis on the lost forest


Both the experimental forest and the Tangled Bank are living labs for students to conduct research. Dr. Robert Booth, Earth and Environmental Sciences, brings classes to these settings to gain hands-on experience with species identification, collecting samples and measurements, and conducting real-world research on the impact of deer on forest growth; invasive species impact; and collecting data on wildlife (salamander, deer) populations.

In 2014, Michelle Spicer completed her Masters degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences, basing her thesis on the growth and species survival in the Experimental Forest. The legacy of planting: A century-long experiment in forest development at Lehigh University investigated what plantings in the original forest survived and thrived, comparing the South Mountain area to a similar local area. For a visual summary of her work, see her research symposium poster

In her work, Spicer answered questions such as How has the forest changed? and How have the trees populated? She re-surveyed present-day community composition in seventeen plots and estimated ages of 600 individual trees of several common species using dendrochronology (tree-ring dating). The resurveyed plots are  dominated by black birch (Betula lenta L.), sugar maple (Acer saccharum Mash.), and tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera L.). Only a few of the originally planted species are abundant today, while a few nonplanted tree species experienced great success.