Students to study dendrochronology in Wyoming

Department of Geospatial Science Associate Professor Stockton Maxwell and three students are heading to the North American Dendroecological Fieldweek (NADEF) later this month.

Held in Cody, Wyoming (Greater Yellowstone), the workshop is an annual 10-day field-based activity that teaches the tools of dendrochronology (tree-ring analysis), provides networking opportunities for students and professionals and expands the benefits of dendrochronological records to forest managers. NADEF has a 25-year history of bringing together a diverse group of scholars to learn cutting-edge dendrochronology science for the continuous improvement of research in the forestry sciences and the better management of forest resources.

A NADEF veteran, Maxwell co-organizes the workshop, one he first attended as a master’s student in 2005.

“I fell in love with it,” Maxwell said. “It involves a great setup of people who are willing and eager to teach.”

He was also one of the principal investigators who helped secure a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to support the workshop, scheduled to start July 21.

“NADEF is designed to train students rapidly,” Maxwell explained. “Participants get up at 7 a.m. and have a very full day – working meal to meal. They’re exhausted but they realize they can learn complex things in a short amount of time…Seeing their brains turn on is a really cool and exciting thing to see.”

During the first few days of NADEF, participants tour the area and listen to lectures from local experts. Then, they split into groups based on the projects proposed by the group leaders. Each group spends one to two days conducting fieldwork, followed by four days of laboratory preparation and analyses. On the last day of the workshop, the groups get back together to present their findings to the other participants.

Maxwell compared the experience to preparing a master’s thesis with five to 10 people in just five to 10 days.

Traveling with Maxwell are Radford University students Brittany Rinaldi and Thomas Callahan, geospatial science majors, and Leah Cort, a biology major.

Both Cort and Rinaldi were awarded undergraduate scholarships - geared toward strong female and minority scholars - to attend the workshop.

“I am very grateful that Dr. Maxwell has given me the opportunity to conduct research and do what I love, which is being outdoors and in nature,” said Rinaldi, a junior from Miller Place, New York. “I am very excited to explore the beautiful Yellowstone National Park and immerse myself in the dendrochronology field.”

Cort, of Virginia Beach, graduated from Radford this spring with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology. She said she is excited to work with a group of people in the same field of study and to “make connections for grad school.”

The students, Maxwell explained, will apply the knowledge and skillsets gained at NADEF to their independent research projects back at Radford.

Rinaldi and Callahan will work these upcoming fall and spring semesters in the tree-ring lab and conduct research at old-growth forest sites in Virginia and West Virginia. They will present their findings next spring through poster presentations at the university’s Student Engagement Forum and at the American Association of Geographers conference.

“It’s a full year of training to be a scientist,” Maxwell said.

Jul 12, 2018
Mary Hardbarger
(540) 831-5150