“Pssssst. Buddy, I got some news you wanna hear.

genetics lab2

 Original Post: But I’m only telling you ‘cuz you got an honest face. Can I trust you?


Not out loud! Just nod your head. Good. Like that. Now, can I trust you? OK.

Write this down: Friday, December 6th is WinterPaloozaPosterFestFeast. C’mon, don’t look so surprised, pal, you knew it was coming. It happens every year at this time. And this year it’s gonna blow them argyle socks right off yer feet. You want Genetics? The WHOLE flippin’ Genetics class is doing a project that they’ll present in a poster. That’s them down there, right below.

genetics lab1

Oh, I get, you’re one of them there physics types, I can tell by that look in yer eyes. There’ll be tons of physics posters. And math. And so many animal phys posters you won’t be able to swing a dead cat without hittin’ one. And for the coop degracey, we got more than a baker’s dozen of posters in two – that’s right two – flavors of ecology: Landscape Ecology and  Agroecology.

Now, can I count on you?

Yes, yes, yes, there’ll be chow – lots of pizza, drinks, desserts. Word on the street is there may even be some vindyloo. The grub’ll be ready at noon and posters’ll  be startin’ at 12:30. Where? In Dickinson – all over the building.

physics lab




You in? Great! Now go spread the word.”



Update (12/6): Terrific job today, everyone – lots of great science was enjoyed by all. 

Podcasts on Science

There’s a lot of science that we talk about on the Bennington science blog, but a group of students is working this term on communicating science to people other than scientists. Below are their podcasts on a wide array of different scientific topics. Stay tuned for their future efforts, which include interviewing scientists on the Bennington faculty!

Jeffrey Matthews on Space Radiation:

Mieke Vrijmoet & Robin Hrynyszyn on the environmental effects of development:

Hilary Whitney & Dane Whitman on Consciousness:

Klemente Gilbert-Espada on the Google File System:

Rachel Johnson on a new type of “green” energy:

This is our lab: carbon budgets in campus forests

The “Forests” class — a field-oriented class introducting concepts of ecology and evolution (taught by faculty member Kerry Woods) — recently remeasured two study plots established in 2004 in campus forests.

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Class members posing with their trees. Left to right: Emily Sanders, Dane Whitman, Nick Atherton, Kevser Kedici, Syvlia Madaras, Kily Dalrymple. Photo by Reily Gordon.

Remeasurements will allow estimation of biomass accumulation and turn-over — in other words, whether these forests are overall carbon sinks or sources. (the stand pictured here is a plantation of native red pine planted in the 1960s by former faculty member Bob Woodworth and his students).

It’s generally thought that New England’s forests are ‘carbon sinks’ because they are relatively young, post-agricultural ecosystems and so still growing — but we do not know how generally or how long that can be expected to be true, so we will keep monitoring the roughly 200 acres of forest on the Bennington College campus.

Faculty Research on ecological effects of changing climates


Old-growth forest at the Dukes Research Natural Area (U.S. Forest Service) in northern Michigan — source of the data-set used in published analyses.

Faculty member Kerry Woods participated in a multi-author study assessing the effects of climate change on forest understory communities in North America and Europe.  Using multi-decade data-sets from 29 research sites analyses show that a general trend of compositional change reflecting increases in warm-adapted species may be moderated where forest canopies have become denser. This work was published online (before print) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science  in a paper titled “Microclimate moderates plant responses to macroclimate warming” (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1311190110).  Woods contributed one of five data-sets from North America; his long-term studies in old-growth forests of northern Michigan have supported several other publications.  Another of the North American data-sets is from Peter White of the University of North Carolina — a Bennington alum from 1971.

This research has been reported by the BBC, on Belgian national news (including a video clip of lead author Pieter de Frenne of University of Ghent — in Dutch), and in press releases from Oxford University and several other universities.

This is our laboratory: Ecology classes study the local landscape

IMG_9975Each year, the introductory ecology and evolution class participates in a multi-year study assessing how the history of agricultural usage and abandonment has affected ecosystem patterns over our local lanscape –  once almost entirely cleared and now over 80% forested. In addition to conducting quantitative vegetation sampling, we ‘read’ stories told by stone walls, soil properties, and remnant trees like this white oak, whose growth form indicates that it was well-established when this site was still an open pasture.

Class excursions also explore the rich diversity of habitats and communities found within a short van-trip from the College, including sub-alpine forests near the summits of surrounding mountain ranges (here, Mt. Greylock in the Taconic Mts., the highest point in

Ecology class in the lab - at the summit of Mt. Greylock

Ecology class in the lab – at the summit of Mt. Greylock