Research project to involve southwest Wisconsin oak trees

March 14, 2013

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PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Landowners in southwestern Wisconsin who have oak trees suspected to be hundreds of years old on their properties are invited to participate in a two-year research project through the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. The project, which is funded by the U.S. Geological Survey and UW Aquatic Sciences Center, will allow researchers at UW-Platteville to gain a better understanding of Driftless Region drought conditions over the past 300 years and apply what they learn to predict the implications of climate change here in the future.

Professors Dr. Evan Larson and Chris Underwood, geography program colleagues and faculty members in the UW-Platteville Tree-Ring, Earth and Environmental Sciences Laboratory, pursued the research grants and will oversee the project. Sara Allen, a UW-Platteville geography and history double major who has presented research from six different projects at national and international conferences, will spearhead it as a post-bachelor research fellow. Six to eight undergraduate students will be working with her.

“This is a traditionally agricultural area and the drought that affected crop production last year had a negative impact on the farmers of southwest Wisconsin, so looking into historical drought patterns can help us better prepare for possible water deficits in the future,” said Allen, who is also pursuing a minor in biology and resides in Platteville. “This project will give me the opportunity to move into a mentoring role after I graduate in May. I’m excited to teach undergraduates about the applications of tree-ring research, and help prepare the next wave of enthusiastic dendrochronologists.”

Dendrochronologists study the growth rings of trees by using a variety of tools. For this particular project, Allen and her team hope to collect more than 400 oak tree core samples with increment borers so they can construct tree-ring chronologies for the region. Drilling into the tree, Larson said, is akin to taking a blood sample and does not leave lasting damage.

Larson said he and Underwood chose Allen to head up the project because of the strong aptitude for tree-ring research she has shown over the past few years as a student researcher in the UW-Platteville TREES Laboratory. Larson added that with Allen’s plans to continue her education in graduate school, this project is a great opportunity to supervise concentrated, high-level research, and write about and present the findings.

Landowners who are interested in participating in the project may reach Larson at (608) 342-6139 or larsonev@uwplatt.edu. To learn more about the TREES Laboratory, access www3.uwplatt.edu/trees.

Contact: Dr. Evan Larson, assistant professor, UW-Platteville Geography Program, (608) 342-6139, larsonev@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Barbara Weinbrenner, communications specialist, UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, weinbreb@uwplatt.edu

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