September 21, 2008
Hi everyone, welcome to my blog. I am a graduate student in Geography and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona located in Tucson, AZ. I have never blogged before, but as a Biosphere 2 Science and Society fellow I have been charged with starting a blog tossing my research out there for a wider audience, or just the occasional passer-by. I’ll be posting on bi-weekly themes and assorted odds and ends of what I do. I’ll do lots of backtracking to prior field seasons when most of the excitement happens. Don’t get me wrong, lab work and writing-up of results can be satisfying, but it is in the field where most often ideas arise amidst the flying mud flies and swarms of bugs. Getting out there and observing the world is why I do this.
So, what do I do? Most broadly, I am interested in past environments, how they change, and how people have dealt with this change (and often actively partook in the change). I know this includes a lot of stuff – my interests are broad, so maybe I should focus on what I am doing for my dissertation.
I am looking at how climate shapes pinyon/juniper woodlands and how changes in the woodlands may have affected past peoples. Over the past few years (peaking in 2002-2003) millions of pinyon trees and a few junipers have succumbed to drought and pests on the Colorado Plateau. If you have driven around southeastern Colorado or northern New Mexico lately you may have noticed an awful lot of these dead trees along the road. Is this die-off a sign of our warming climate, where warmer droughts produce ideal conditions for weakened trees and heightened bark beetle reproduction? Or, are these woodlands prone to occasional die-offs which reset the ecological clock and open up niches for new young growth? Or, some combination of both? Finally, what are the implications for past peoples of the southwest who relied on the pinyon nut as a source of protein – ho might past die-offs change our view of the archaeological record? Using tree-rings I am attempting to provide a bit of perspective on the recent die-off by dating past mortality of pinyon. In a nutshell, I am picking-up old dead wood off the ground and dating when it died. With tree-rings from other species I am looking at past climate to see if there is a correlation between climate conditions and patterns of tree death. Simple enough in concept…
An all too common sight throughout the range of Colorado pinyon.
Over the next few months I’ll posting some of what I’ve done thus far and where I hope to be going. Up next though, is the first bi-weekly theme I have been assigned – climate change.