Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2015

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Earth Sciences; Natural Resources and the Environment

Program or Major

Environmental Sciences: Ecosystems

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Ruth Varner

Second Advisor

Michael Palace

Third Advisor

Erik Froburg


Refining carbon flux measurements in the carbon cycle is an ongoing challenge. This study attempted to identify plant species in Sallie’s Fen, a nutrient-poor fen in Barrington, New Hampshire, at a fine scale in order to better model and understand carbon exchange between plants and the atmosphere in this type of ecosystem. A protocol for estimating percent cover of species in plots via ground measurements was developed. The next stage of this project was to compare these measurements with measurements derived from spectral images using ImageJ computer software. Statistical tests of the ground measurement data revealed that patterns of seasonal defoliation had a strong effect on the apparent species richness, evenness, and biodiversity of plants as seen aerially. The presence of Sphagnum mosses excluded the presence of other species, but the presence of other plants only excluded the visibility of Sphagnum since it resides in the understory of the layered community. A regression comparing percent cover of the vascular plant functional group and fractal dimensions from a digital camera was statistically significant, indicating that ground and aerial measurements agree and that spectral imaging can be used to save time in the field in place of ground measurements. Additionally, since ecosystem science is such an interdisciplinary field, it provides the perfect platform around which students can apply their scientific knowledge and understanding. Modifications to this project were suggested so that it can be carried out in a secondary school classroom setting while aligning with the Next Generation Science Standards.