SBE Professors Hamish Greig & Jacquelyn Gill receive media coverage on joined research project

Hamish Greig with student
Professor Hamish Greig and student in the field.

Hamish Greig, assistant professor of stream ecology, and Jacquelyn Gill, assistant professor of terrestrial paleoecology at the Climate Change Institute, have joined forces in order to study the impact that hemlock tree die-offs have on freshwater forest ecosystems.  The importance of this research is rooted in the great impact these trees have on the ecosystem.  Hemlock trees are considered a foundation species; a species that has a strong role in structuring a community.  Hemlock trees in Maine have been found to influence site soil, vegetation, and stream characteristics.

The research project has been picked up by a variety of media outlets including The Associated Press and WVII(Channel 7), The RepublicSun JournalSFGate andWABI (Channel 5).

In order to better understand the impact these hemlock trees have, the research team set up an experiment with 36 livestock water tanks in which they added hemlock needles, rhododendron, and maple leaves in order to emulate a freshwater forest ecosystem.  The team will observe these tanks as they develop over time. In order to peer into the past, Gill and Robert Northington, a research assistant in biology and lake ecology, will study radiocarbon-dated records from various lakes and bogs in Maine in order to see how aquatic systems were affected by hemlock die-offs in the past.

The implications of this research is especially important in Maine, where hemlocks are on the decline from the introduction of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, an aphid-like insect from Asia that attacks eastern hemlocks.

“When you change one thing in an ecosystem, everything is connected. Killing off all the hemlock trees doesn’t just change the forests. This change has impacts all the way, it trickles through the whole system,” Gill told WVII.

The research team also includes Krista Capps, MS students Jack McLachlan and Jess Haghkerdar, PhD. Students Thomas Parr, Laura Podzikowski, and visiting PhD. student, Amanda Klemmer.

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