Nature Club visits the tree lab

Annie Maud

Your vocabulary word of the day: Dendrochronology n / the science of dating events by studying growth rings in trees and wood.

In 1937 a University of Arizona professor formalized this new science. A. E. Douglass found he could date events in the past by counting tree rings and studying their growth patterns. Dendrochronology is an interdisciplinary science and for years, the tree lab at the U of A was housed under the football stadium bleachers in a warren of rooms filled with tree ring slices, microscopes and sawdust; lots of sawdust.

But today the lab occupies an up-to-date building with room for the research, storage and study of slices of history.

The Nature Club visited the new facility with an interesting docent-led tour. We began by examining the slice of a giant sequoia in the entry. When the tree died, in 1913, it was 1,701 old – a youngster. The lab’s slab and core archives go back 11,000 years.

We saw the history behind the discovery, touched samples of tree cores from around the world, watched students ring counting (there is no computer program for this, all the counting is done by individuals), and listened to researchers who are using the lab for study in climate change, pollution and other fields. We met for lunch after the tour and left with a new understanding of this remarkable field.

The Nature Club meets the second Monday at 4:00 p.m. in the Coyote Room at HOA One.