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Educator Guide: Lab 5 - Warming in the Boreal Forests

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Summary and Learning Objectives

In Lab 5, students visit several sites in the northern latitudes, or boreal forests, to gather clues about what temperature was like at different times in the past. Initially, they investigate the tree-ring datasets available from the International Tree-Ring Databank (ITRDB) and then focus on the work of one of the science investigators, and their peer-reviewed research. Then students explore three different tree-ring research sites using Google Maps to understand the setting and ecology of the regions they are studying. They employ a quantitative method to evaluate and measure tree samples from the sites they investigated and produce a time-series graph of their data. They also compare their work to the published data from the region and evaluate a recently published two thousand year tree-ring based temperature reconstruction for the Northern Hemisphere.

Note: Please download the Student Activity Sheet (pdf or Word version) found in the Printable Materials section of this document if you wish to have students respond to Stop and Think questions as they go through the lab.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lab, students will be able to:

  • locate a tree-ring dataset on the International Tree-Ring Databank, and find a peer review publication that is associated with that dataset.
  • virtually explore tree-ring sites in the boreal forests and describe why it is an ideal place for conducting meaningful tree-ring research.
  • measure tree samples and compare measurements to published data.
  • identify short and long-term trends in a published temperature reconstruction, and research the potential cause of the extreme years identified.
  • describe what we can learn about climate change from long tree-ring records growing in the northern latitudes.


Activity Overview and Teaching Materials

Detailed overview of what students will do in each part of the lab.

Student worksheets

You can download and print the Student Activity Sheet, or they can download it from within the lab.

References and Additional Resources