During her senior year at Plymouth State University, Lindsey Bergholm interned with Georgia Murray, an AMC staff scientist, installing and monitoring time-lapse cameras at two field sites in New Hampshire’s Pinkham Notch. Bergholm’s goal, to determine the exact day of peak fall foliage in the notch, also would aid AMC in tracking the effects of climate change on trees. Before her internship ended, Bergholm developed a method to assist future researchers studying foliage timing.
Murray saw an opportunity for an aspiring scientist to take the reins, and, working with middle school teachers in North Conway, N.H., found the right person for the job. Enter the eloquently named Eloryn Fall, a seventh-grader with a passion for science, who used Bergholm’s work to research and plot data collected from a time-lapse camera on her school’s roof.
Fall presented her findings at the Mount Washington Valley Regional Science & Technology fair in May and co-presented with Murray in front of 100-plus scientists at the U.S. Forest Service Hubbard Brook Annual Cooperators Meeting in July—becoming the youngest person ever to do so. AMC Outdoors caught up with Bergholm and Fall to learn more about their research.
What were you hoping to accomplish with your internship?
Bergholm: Beyond identifying the day of peak foliage, my goal was to investigate the accuracy and reliability of using repetitive digital imagery to predict the peak.
What kind of technology did you use in your research?
Bergholm: The cameras were each affixed to a wooden stake, braced against a tree, and set to take one picture an hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each week I would download the pictures to my computer, and at the conclusion of my data collection, they were uploaded to the PhenoCam Tool v1.1 software. This program allowed us to calculate the ratio of the colors comprising the image by determining the amounts of red, blue, and green in specific regions.
Were there any challenges?
Bergholm: The biggest challenge was just figuring out how to analyze the data. There weren’t a lot of previous studies doing projects quite like ours, so we had to piece together ideas from a bunch of different sources. There was also a bit of a learning curve with how to use the software. The wind liked to move our cameras, too, which made it a challenge to get reliable imagery from start to end.
How did it feel, presenting at Hubbard Brook?
Fall: I never thought I would do something like that in my lifetime. It was nerve-racking. I’m only 13, and I’m not a big fan of presenting. I think I’d do a better job if I was invited back.
What was the most interesting part of your research?
Fall: I knew why the leaves change colors, but I never studied when this happens and what factors could change this in the future. I enjoyed making the graphs and plotting the data to find peak foliage.
What will you research and present at this year’s science fair?
Fall: I plan on using this year’s data to present peak foliage, and I want to study other variables, including rainfall and temperature.
What’s your dream job?
Fall: I would love to be a teacher.
Bergholm: I’m interested in the conservation and research of turtles or salamanders in wetlands.