Student research attempts to provide insight on tree growth
Fear not, tree huggers. The flags tied to the trunks of the white pine trees between Munn Ice Arena and Demonstration Hall do not mean they’re being chopped down.
Rather, they are being used to rework a map of which rows the trees were originally planted in 1914.
In addition to this, the study is also part of plant biology senior Caleb Adgate’s project involving how climate variables affect a tree’s growth on different areas of campus. Some of the variables the study takes into account include temperature fluctuations, how far the trees are from the water table and storm damage.
Frank Telewski, professor of plant biology and curator, was already doing some studies involving the white pines and the damage they took on during the ice storm in December 2013. However, he hit a snag when he discovered the map he had on file was “all messed up.”
Meanwhile, Adgate was looking for a project to fulfill a graduation requirement before graduating this year.
“He expressed some interest in learning some outdoor ecological techniques towards woodlots and forest stands,” Telewski said. “And I said ‘hey, I think I got a project for you to work on,’ ... so that’s how a lot of these undergraduate projects work out. The professor has a project going on in the lab and if it looks like there’s something we can squeeze a project into, we’re more than happy to work with the undergraduates.”
The project the two have been working on is also similar to a study Telewski oversaw in 2013, which compared the growth-climate relationships of trees in the floodway versus the terrace forest along the banks of the Red Cedar River.
And since Adgate and Telewski began working together, the two have spent countless hours trying to complete the study — many of these hours spent in chilling single-digit temperatures.
“It got to where we couldn’t think,” Adgate said. “It was too cold to keep our thoughts together.”
“You literally get brain freeze,” Telewski said.
The flags will remain on the trees for a couple more weeks as Telewski and Adgate continue to sort out the outdated map of trees, as well as their study on how climate factors affect trees’ growth on different parts of campus.
“We’re not cutting the trees down. That’s the good news,” said Telewski, pointing to a pair of oak trees he planted from acorns he collected in Korea. “We do have to cut trees down sometimes but we try to minimize it as much as possible so we can maximize the campus arboretum.”