Sponsor a Young Scientist’s Climate Research In Eastern Massachusetts

The Friends of the Fells are excited to partner with The Friends of Harold Parker as sponsors of a Fundly campaign launched by Walter Kittredge, a member of our Stewardship Committee. Walter seeks funding for a summer intern/research assistant with particular expertise in lichens and mosses. 

Walter tells us:

“Lichens and mosses have been used to monitor air and water pollution, to which they are particularly sensitive, and are ideal organisms to monitor the effects of climate change as they react more quickly to environmental changes than do the flowering plants. They are, in a sense, the canary in the coal mine.”

Walter is a botanist who has worked at the Harvard Herbaria for 40 years. Walter was co-author of “Changes in the vascular flora of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from 1895 to 2011.” published in 2012 in the journal Rhodora, which won the Fernald Award. He also co-authored several subsequent additions to the flora in the journal. He is also author of “The Middlesex Fells, a Flourishing Urban Forest” published in 2013 in the journal Arnoldia. 

Anyone who has walked in the woods with Walter has witnessed his encyclopedic knowledge of plants. However, lichens and mosses are a bit out of his area of expertise, and engaging a summer intern is key to completing his survey. He points out that while the Fells and Harold Parker are only 10 miles away from each other, they are a half zone apart in temperature and have different ecologies. Establishing a comprehensive early 21st century inventory of the plants in each area as a baseline will inform climate change studies in years to come.

Funding for basic research is sadly lacking, particularly for plants without obvious commercial benefits. The Boards of our Friends’ organizations recognize that this project presents a wonderful opportunity to encourage students and scientists working in these fields. Visit Walter’s Fundly site to learn more and make a contribution to support a project that will have long-range significance for our local environment.

About research assistant Giovanna Bishop:

Giovanna graduated from Wheaton College in 2017 with a B.A. in Environmental Science. At Wheaton, Giovanna started the Farm House along with the WheaFarm–Wheaton College’s Community Garden–the summer of 2015, and was the president of both for two years. Not only was Giovanna a leader on campus, but she was also a member of the Women’s Lacrosse team, as well as part of the staff at the Wheaton Greenhouse. Giovanna was a key member of a project to digitize, curate, and identify the Wheaton mollusc collection during her senior year, which is when she started to realize her interest in cryptogams. She created her own independent study her last semester at Wheaton, and collected lichens and bryophytes from the Wheaton Woods learning to identify and curate them. Giovanna was awarded the Clinton V. MacCoy prize in Ecology at Wheaton, an award only two students get every year. After graduating she took two field courses at the Eagle Hill Institute in Steuben, Maine on lichens and bryophytes, which improved her identification skills. Giovanna was hired as a field assistant in the Western US this past summer, working with Polystichum ferns. She joined the curatorial staff of the Farlow Herbarium at Harvard in November 2017, where she deepened her knowledge. She is planning on applying to PhD programs to study bryophytes and lichens in December. 

More about Walter:

Walter graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in Botany in 1975, and has a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies from Harvard University. As the Senior Curatorial Assistant in the Harvard Herbaria, Walter has been a team leader in major restructuring of the collections. His most recent project was to database the several thousand specimens in Thoreau’s Herbarium. Research interests include Charles Wright, and New England floristics.