Laci M. Gerhart Barley

Home » Conferences and Workshops » Second Novus RCN Workshop: Rocky Mountain National Park

Second Novus RCN Workshop: Rocky Mountain National Park

As part of my continued appointment with the Novus RCN, I attended the Novus II workshop earlier this month in the *beautiful* Rocky Mountain National Park. For this conference, twenty-five researchers from twenty-one different institutions spanning three countries met at the YMCA of the Rockies to hash out the spatial, temporal, biogeochemical, and biotic responses of ecosystems to disturbance events and changing disturbance regimes. We spent three days building conceptual diagrams, populating them with actual data or case study examples, sharing them with the group and integrating our ideas across time, space, and disturbance agents. I really enjoyed being part of the biotic group. My PhD work focused more on plant ecophysiology, while my recent post-doc work at K-State shifted my focus more towards ecosystem biogeochemical cycling. It was nice to ‘get back to my roots’ (botany joke!) with the organismal focus of the biotic group.

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It wasn’t all work and no play, though – local host and Novus steering committee member Phil Higuera took the group on a hike through RMNP to his field site (and one of my Continental N locations!) of Chickaree Lake.  I was excited to see Chickaree Lake, as I prefer to at least have some interaction with my field sites. That’s the only aspect of the continental N project that I dislike – it is impossible for me to sample all the locations myself, which means I must rely on others local knowledge of sites and systems rather than my own experience at the site. I was glad to at least have some direct knowledge of the knowledge of the Chickaree Lake area and its history.  Along the hike we saw evidence of the stand-replacing fire this section of the forest experienced in 1872. Even 140 years later, the bark of the trees shows scars from the fire. Additionally, this region has recently been hit with mountain bark beetle attacks, so we also saw evidence of the bore holes through the bark (complete with tree chemical defense oozes), and where the bark had stripped away we could see internal bore holes from both the egg-laying female, and the subsequent larva. I had a great time chatting with Ken Raffa, who studies bark beetle outbreaks and beetle biology. It’s a fascinating ecological system, incorporating complex ecological relationships between the trees, the mountain bark beetle, and the ips beetle which appears after the mountain bark beetle and attacks tree hosts weakened by the initial beetle assault. It was a beautiful and educational hike.

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On the way back from the hike, the group also stopped at the Rock Cut Tundra Overlook. It was windy and sleeting and so foggy we couldn’t see much of the panoramic view. I loved every frigid second of it 🙂 It was ethereal and beautiful, and made for some nice photos too!

The plan now that the workshop is over is to coalesce our ideas into a manuscript outlining the results of our discussions. Check back here, or over at the Novus blog for updates!

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