Warming Winters


To escape the harsh winter weather, many plants and animals survive within a warmer and more stable environment below the snowpack, the subnivium. The climate of the subnivium is dependent on the insulation of the snowpack. With changing winter conditions,the snow season is shorter, snowcover is becoming shallower and denser, and the subnivium is becoming more variable. For species that are adapted to survive winter in the subnivium, these changes could have important effects on their biology.

In collaboration with Dr. Ben Zuckerberg, we have developed micro-greenhouses (8’ x 8’, 10’ tall) to mimic changes in winter conditions. Each is be equipped with a heater to control temperatures within the micro-greenhouse, and automated roof panels which open to allow precipitation to enter. The greenhouses are equipped with a number of sensors to record weather conditions such as temperature, humidity, and solar radiation. Partnering with Operation Fresh Start, 27 micro-greenhouse will be constructed in total. These will later be deployed in the fall of 2015 from southern Wisconsin to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and across different habitats.

This work is funded by the National Science Foundation (MSB).