Nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is a forest. It sits in its own little valley, full of wispy birch trees, beeches, and grand sugar maples. The skies are a cobalt blue and cold, clear streams run down into a small, mirror-like lake. It might seem like a great place for a hike.
But if you do go there one day, you might notice a few mysterious things out in those New Hampshire woods—trees dotted with tiny metal tags that jingle like the collars of a pack of dogs; someone off in the distance, shoveling snow from a seemingly nondescript patch of forest floor; a handful of trees coated in ice, as if just hit by the world’s most specific blizzard.
All of these seemingly mysterious goings-on have a purpose. Because this isn’t just a patch of woods. It’s the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest—a 63-year-old, 7,800-acre living laboratory that’s helping scientists understand the world around us.
“We currently have about 60 different collaborators at Hubbard Brook,” says site manager Ian Halm. The collaborators are working on a wide variety of projects, from learning and monitoring how nutrients move through an ecosystem, to tracking animal populations over time, to learning how northern forests might respond to events like drought or climate change.
A forester by training, Halm’s been working here since 1990. His office is full of moose antlers he’s picked up while hiking or snowmobiling through the forest.
“Moose drop their antlers once a year,” says Halm, joking the animals always seem to drop them right in his path. “I have to pick them up, otherwise I’d trip on them.”