Honours Profile: Mesha Sagram

Mesha Sagram is a fourth-year environmental science honours student working with supervisors Georgia Klein and Brad Walters. 

Climate change is a serious threat to the health of the planet due to increased carbon emissions. One of Earth’s natural methods of mitigating this change is through carbon sinks (such as oceans and forests). Carbon sinks absorb carbon emissions and store it for an indefinite period time; this is a process known as carbon sequestration.

Sagram’s thesis is entitled “Dynamics of carbon sequestration in coarse woody debris and forest management.” It involves measuring the carbon storage in coarse woody debris located in Whaelghinbran Farm, which is part of the Acadian forest.  The Acadian forest ranges over Northeastern United States, and covers New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Coarse woody debris includes lying deadwood over a metre in length and ten centimetres in diameter. This debris rebuilds soils, restores soil nutrients, and limits erosion. It also stores a large amount of carbon (depending on its volume and decay class).

Sagram’s research is conducted through Community Forests International, a non-profit organization that works to connect people and their communities to the forests that sustain them. Their main focus is on forest restoration and sustainable forestry.

With Community Forests International, Sagram measured carbon storage. She did this by sampling fifteen plots in five different tree stands for various tree composition and age. Two fifty-metre paths were laid out for each tree plot. The diameter of lying deadwood was measured, and the decay was recorded using a machete test. A machete test was conducted by hitting the log with a machete. The logs were then classified in one of three categories, depending on how far the machete passed through the log.

With the results, Sagram plans on making a comparison with an unmanaged forest (such as a natural forest in the Fundy Biosphere Reserve) and an intensively managed forest (such as one where trees are constantly being cut down and replanted). 

Working for Community Forests International is a rewarding experience for Sagram because her research is being directly applied. Her work consists of helping compare their forests on Whaelghinbran Farm to unmanaged forests and giving them recommendations on how to better manage their sustainable forest. Sagram is interested in researching policies that surround sustainable forest management around the concept of carbon sequestration and the vital role it plays on counteracting the effects of climate change.

“The topic hasn’t been researched much at all”, said Sagram, “it’s a very new concept.” 

Sagram had a strong love for the environment before coming to Mount Allison for her studies. 

“My purpose in life is to do everything I can to help the environment,” she explained. She chose to study the environment from a scientific perspective.

“It’s how I can best apply my skills to help the world,” she said.

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