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Science of the Seasons

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Environmental Education

The Junior Snow Ranger program is designed for children in the 4th and 5th grade. Outdoor and indoor activities are included in a colorful publication that highlights themes such as safety, wildlife, winter ecology, recreation, and the joy of winter fun.

Featured Podcasts

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Kelly van Frankenhuyzen talks with U.S. Forest Service experts about hemlock woolly adelgid and it's impacts on eastern hemlock forests.

  • Andrea Hille, Silviculturist, Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania
  • Nathan Havill, Research Entomologist, Northern Research Station, Hamden, Connecticut
  • Therese Poland, Research Entomologist and Project Leader of Ecology and Management of Invasive Species in Forest Ecosystems research work unit, Lansing, Michigan

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Ice Storm Experiment

Kelly van Frankenhuyzen talks with U.S. Forest Service experts about the Hubbard Brook Ice Storm Experiment and the importance of studying ice storms.

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[photo:] Two people walk in the snow on the White Mountain National Forest. [photo:] Young boy shows harvested Christmas tree and permit. Photo by US Forest Service, Green Mountain/Finger Lakes National Forests. [photo:] Au Sable National Scenic River, Cathedral Pines Campground - Photo provided by Jon Meeks, Huron-Manistee National Forests. [photo:] Forest products that make the Holidays brighter! Wreaths are made from White Pine, Eastern Red Cedar and other evergreens. Photo provided by Shawnee National Forest. [photo:] Snowshoeing and bird watching on the Chequemegon-Nicolet National Forests.  Photo by US Forest Service.


Winter is settling in for the long haul. From Maine to Minnesota and from Missouri to Maryland, landscapes are transitioning into shades of black and white and green. It may be the “dormant season,” but there is much more going on in winter than meets the eye.

This page brings together Northern Research Station science that relates to the season, along with links to other seasonal resources within the U.S. Forest Service.


Scientist's Perspectives on the Season

Songbirds Head South

Wood Thrush.  Photo by Dave King, US Forest Service.It is hard not to notice how quiet the neighborhood has become recently. This is partially because year-round neighbors like chickadees and cardinals are done breeding until next spring, but mostly because the majority of our songsters spend only a fraction of the year in the northern temperate regions. In the fall, the “neotropical migrant” species return home, but where exactly they go has been a longstanding question for scientists. 

Although the general winter ranges of many species have been known from years of ornithological study (for instance, Baltimore orioles are found throughout the Caribbean and southern Mexico to South America), until recently it has been difficult to determine where migrants from a particular portion of their breeding range spend the winter. This is because it is relatively rare for bird bands to be returned from the wintering grounds, however recent technological advances in tracking devices have revealed the specific wintering areas of some species of population concern like the wood thrush and golden-winged warbler. This helps identify important winter habitat in need of conservation to support breeding populations, and also more generally, whether a given population is more threatened by alternation to habitat on the breeding or wintering season.

-Dave King, Research Wildlife Biologist

Northern Research Station, Amherst, Massachusetts

Exceptionally Cool Science


Ice storms are a powerful force of nature, and they are exceptionally challenging events to study. Rather than chase storms, scientists at the Northern Research Station’s Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest decided to bring the storm to the forest.
In January 2016, scientists sprayed water from the main channel of Hubbard Brook through fire hoses between gaps in the canopy so that it would descend on the forest as a fine mist and freeze to the tree limbs upon contact.
They established 10 basketball court-sized wilderness plots, two of which they left untouched as controls. Another two were coated with a quarter-inch of ice, four were coated with a half-inch of ice, and two with three-quarters of an inch. In 2017, the team reapplied a half-inch of ice to two of the four plots they had iced the same last winter.
Find out more about what researchers are learning through the Ice Storm Experiments on the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest.


Selected Research Stories

Selected Publications

The publications listed below do not represent every study related to winter; for a more complete list of NRS publications, please visit our Publications page at:

Hefty, Andrea R.; Seybold, Steven J.; Aukema, Brian H.; Venette, Robert C. 2017. Cold Tolerance of Pityophthorus juglandis (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) From Northern California. Environmental Entomology. 46(4): 967-977.

Koenig, Walter D.; Liebhold, Andrew M. 2017. A decade of emerald ash borer effects on regional woodpecker and nuthatch populations. Biological Invasions. 19(7): 2029-2037.

Nystrom Santacruz, Erica; Venette, Robert; Dieckhoff, Christine; Hoelmer, Kim; Koch, Robert L. 2017. Cold tolerance of Trissolcus japonicus and T. cultratus, potential biological control agents of Halyomorpha halys, the brown marmorated stink bug. Biological Control. 107: 11-20.

Potvin, Lynette R.; Lilleskov, Erik A. 2017. Introduced earthworm species exhibited unique patterns of seasonal activity and vertical distribution, and Lumbricus terrestris burrows remained usable for at least 7 years in hardwood and pine stands. Biology and Fertility of Soils. 53(2): 187-198.

Durán, Jorge; Morse, Jennifer L.; Groffman, Peter M.; Campbell, John L.; Christenson, Lynn M.; Driscoll, Charles T.; Fahey, Timothy J.; Fisk, Melany C.; Mitchell, Myron J.; Templer, Pamela H. 2014. Winter climate change affects growing-season soil microbial biomass and activity in northern hardwood forests. Global Change Biology. 20(11): 3568-3577.

Kendrick, Sarah W.; Thompson, Frank R., III. 2013. Tree stocking affects winter bird densities across a gradient of savanna, woodland, and forest in the Missouri Ozarks. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 37(3): 577-584.

Kosiba, Alexandra M.; Schaberg, Paul G.; Hawley, Gary J.; Hansen, Christopher F. 2013. Quantifying the legacy of foliar winter injury on woody aboveground carbon sequestration of red spruce trees. Forest Ecology and Management. 302: 363-371.

Strimbeck, G. Richard; Kjellsen, Trygve D.; Schaberg, Paul G.; Murakami, Paula F. 2007. Cold in the common garden: comparative low-temperature tolerance of boreal and temperate conifer foliage. Trees. 21: 557-567.

Campbell, John L.; Mitchell, Myron J.; Groffman, Peter M.; Christenson, Lynn M.; Hardy, Janet P. 2005. Winter in northeastern North America: a critical period for ecological processes. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 3(6): 314-322.


Last Modified: December 19, 2017