GEOG 3839: Introduction to Dendrochronology

4 Credits

Examination of past landscape histories are critical for assessing how environments change and identifying causal mechanisms. Tree-rings, the annual growth rings formed by trees growing in temperate regions, are an instrumental tool for elucidating changes over time. As biological entities, tree-rings are recorders of changes in their surroundings. The application of tree-rings to understand environmental change is called dendrochronology. Dendrochronology has played an important role in understanding past climates, disturbance regimes, and the history of Indigenous peoples (to name just a few applications). Its use has been critical to understanding pressing environmental issues such as 20th century global warming, the impacts of fire suppression on forested landscapes, the loss of the Black Forest in Europe (pollution), and the use/abandonment of archaeological sites (the Anasazi and Ojibwe). It is an exceedingly interesting analytical tool that has unique applications, but it isn’t as simple as counting the rings of trees to determine an age. In this course we will focus on the biology, theoretical principles, and operational techniques of dendrochronology and apply this knowledge toward understanding forest change. By the end of the course students will be able to conduct basic dendrochronological research and appreciate the advantages and limitations of this important tool. My aim is to expose you to the foundational science behind the field, provide you with some simple tools, and introduce you to the variety of applications to which tree-ring analysis can be applied by doing some dendrochronological research. We will apply the tools of dendrochronology toward understanding forest dynamics in a specific landscape to examine fire and tree growth patterns and the influence of climate and people on the forested environment. This course will be a mixture of lecture and hands-on data analysis. The primary approach for this course is the development of a group research project utilizing data that is either collected in the field for a specific purpose or the use of data that is already archived. prereq: [1403, [BIOL 1001 or BIOL 1009 or equiv]] or instr consent

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