What is it?

Last month I was lucky enough to take a trip to Upper Seeds in Wytham Woods, to check out RainDrop, our brand new, long-term experiment. Established in partnership with the Open University, the University of Oxford and the Patsy Wood Trust, RainDrop will investigate how grassland systems will respond to predicted environmental change.

The establishment of a new long-term experiment (LTE), simultaneously investigating multiple drivers of change, had been on the ECT agenda for quite some time. It was thrilling to see the project finally emerging from the thin calcareous soil of Upper Seeds.

Designed utilising our collective knowledge of LTEs, it is hoped, dare I say expected, that the experiment will still be producing data 50 years down the line. Speaking for myself, I am optimistic that it will operational much longer.  After all, one of Rothamsted’s Classical Experiments, Park Grass has just marked its 160th anniversary.

What will it do?

RainDrop will examine how changes in rainfall will affect grassland systems, and has implemented treatments that adhere to the Drought-Net protocol. This provides a fantastic link to a much wider network of sites that are also manipulating precipitation and will enable direct comparison with sites both nationally and internationally.

When arriving on site and seeing the rain shelters in-situ, the first thing to strike me was their sheer size. Measuring an impressive 5mx5m, they look not all too dissimilar to angular, space spiders, albeit with a few more legs. I must confess the thrill of seeing the five shelters installed on site, almost compelled me to run under the closest shelter for a victory dance. Thankfully I exercised restraint and instead warmly congratulated Melanie Stone - the PhD student responsible for installing the  experimental infrastructure. I am pleased to say that we did discuss a potential topping out ceremony and the use of bunting!

With, or without bunting this is certainly a moment to celebrate the collective achievements of the many individuals, on site and behind the scenes that have worked on the project.