Professor Emeritus of Botany
He continued his research on nitrogen fixation at the Harvard Forest of Harvard University, where he investigated the energy cost of nitrogen fixation by nodulated woody plants, particularly alders. His recent research and teaching interests include the biophysics of gas diffusion into and out of root nodules and compost piles; computer models of forest succession applied to inquiry learning and the regulation of cell wall expansion during oscillatory growth in lily pollen tubes.
He teaches in the Environmental Science and Sustainability Program, sponsoring courses on sustainable living and the production of biomass fuels. In addition to teaching plant biology and forest ecology, Professor Winship is the current director of the Southwest Studies program and occasionally leads desert field courses on the US-Mexico border. His other interests include sustainable building and timber framing, the natural history of the Pioneer Valley, hiking, and sailing.
Standing as silent sentinels, trees in temperate regions record temperature, rainfall, amount of sunlight and response to disturbance in the width of their annual growth rings. We can use the patterns of these rings as surrogate climate records for years before people recorded weather data. In this project-based course, we will first learn the techniques of dendochronology, the science of reading tree rings, including collection and preparation of samples, data collections and analysis, and the biology of tree growth. We will travel to various sites around New England and collect tree cores in stands where the climate signal is likely to be strong and where we can also find evidence of significant ecological events such as fire, logging, hurricanes and farm abandonment. 300-level students will act as team leaders for the main course projects.
A lively debate roars in both the popular and scientific press - will we run out of food? This debate seems to beg several crucial questions: what food, for whom, produced how and where, at what cost to the world's non-human biota (among others)? We might try to answer these questions politically, or ethically, or ecologically - in this class I propose to explore the implications of our food choices and production methods as quantitatively as possible using mathematical models. Many, many studies have produced models of this kind, so we have a good set of starting points. And, a model is only as good as its input data, and the validity of assumptions about rates and interrelationships. We will explore and critique a few such models, then try out our own project. Depending on interests, skills and available information we might take on local food production and consumption on our own campus, in the Pioneer Valley, or even throughout the world. Some skills or at least comfort with computers, simulations and numerical methods are strongly recommended.
Unlike many plant biology survey courses, this class will not attempt comprehensive coverage, but rather will consist of a series of guided explorations into how plants around us grow, adapt and reproduce. Class will meet twice per week, once to discuss relevant literature and last week's results, and once to conduct experiments, take field walks, make observations and collect data. Likely topics include pigments and leaf color change, photosynthesis and respiration, seed germination, vegetative and reproductive anatomy, nutrient uptake, nitrogen fixation, tropisms and canopy structure, among others. We will grow plants in the Bioshelter and explore the woods and fields around us. Written work for the course will consist of short write-ups of each week's exploration. No formal prerequisites are required, but some experience with science and quantitative analysis is very much recommended.
Shaped by climate, elevation, and continuous disturbance, the forests of New England are diverse, ever-changing, and frankly beautiful. In this class we take day-long field trips to twelve forests, reading the literature on each forest type and learning to identify trees and other denizens. We will practice methods for scientific investigation, including community census and analysis and dendrochronology. We will learn to read the landscape for clues about history and stand dynamics.