In a forest 3,000 miles away, two Humboldt State students explored the ecological mysteries of seedlings and leaves for a prestigious internship through Harvard University.
Colleen Smith (Forestry) and Jolene Saldivar (Biology) were among 18 students selected for Harvard University’s annual Summer Research Program in Ecology at Harvard Forest, a 3,000-acre ecological research site in Massachusetts. They were also the only students from the same university.
For 11 weeks, Smith and Saldivar attended weekly seminars and workshops and conducted independent research with mentors from Harvard and other institutions.
Instructors and rigorous courses at Humboldt State gave them the knowledge they needed to thrive in their internship.
“The upper division ecology and statistics courses I took at HSU set me apart from the other applicants and gave me the ability to jump right into my internship project,” says Saldivar.
Her project included examining the phenological trends of deciduous trees at Harvard Forest and throughout the northeast, finding that canopy position and climate change have drastically affected the life cycle of leaves.
Meanwhile, Smith studied the amount of energy saplings use and the relationships between tree size, abundance, and light availability in the forest. She concluded that saplings are more abundant than mature trees and, as a result, may use just as much energy as larger trees.
“I found myself learning from not only my mentors but also students in the program,” says Smith. “One of my favorite aspects of this experience was learning about the many different fields of research conducted at the forest.”
Saldivar says she learned practical skills, such as how to apply to graduate school and write research proposals, leaving her feeling more confident about herself and her future.
“Now, I feel ready to apply to graduate programs this fall and I’m looking forward to receiving acceptance letters in January,” she says.