Initial Publication Date: April 28, 2017

Part 3 - Exploring Tree-Ring Sites Around the World


Take a look at the huge number of published tree-ring chronologies (green triangles) that have been made available to the public by the scientists who originally collected them. Tree-ring scientists contribute their data to the International Tree-Ring Databank (ITRDB) to make the data available to other researchers, and to be sure that the same sites are not visited multiple times. As you can see, there are thousands of tree-ring chronologies from around the globe, although most of them come from North America and Europe. There are also places where there is very little data (parts of South America and Africa for example). Sometimes this is because old trees don't grow in these regions, or the trees that do grow there do not produce annual rings making them unsuitable for tree-ring studies. It is also possible that it the logistics of collecting old trees in these regions can be extremely difficult.

In this activity, you will explore tree-ring datasets available from the International Tree-Ring Databank (ITRDB). You will then focus on the work of one of the science investigators, and their peer-reviewed research, to help you understand how science works, and how necessary collaboration is to doing meaningful research in tree-ring science.


1. Explore the ITRDB

Right click to open ITRDB in a new window. Make sure that only "tree ring data" is selected in the list on the left.

2. Click on the "identify" option in the "Paleo Network Tools" box.

3. Pick three tree-ring sites of interest that are each located near your community or in your state. When you are in the "identify" tool, you can just click on a tree-ring site (green triangle) that is of interest. Once you click on a site, the metadata for that site will appear on the left hand side in the results tab. Record the name of each site, the investigator's name, and the coordinates (latitude and longitude) on the table provided in your answer sheet.

4. Select one of your three sites for further study. After choosing the site, click on "Access Data" to reveal the details of the science mission. Record the following information on your answer sheet.

  • Elevation of the site
  • Data span of tree-ring cores at the site
  • Species of trees cored at the site
  • 5. Review the literature

    Right click to open Google Scholar in a new window. This site is a search engine that students and scientists use to research what has already been published on a topic.

    6. Type in the name of one of the investigators that you identified in the Paleoclimatology Data Map in the Search box. Add the words "tree ring" after the name. One of the first things to note is how many times a publication has been cited in papers published by the scientific community. See the figure below for example. The paper with O. Solomina as a co-author has been cited by other publications 356 times, a measure of the impact a paper has on the scientific community. This is a large number of citations! You can also click on the "search for related articles" tab, which is a handy feature. If you include the region the data came from in the search box you can narrow down the publications, for example, typing in "O Solomina tree ring Kamchatka" will result in a list of related publications specific to that region.

    7. Click on a few of the article links from your Google Scholar search for each investigator that you identified on the Paleoclimatology Data Map and read several of the abstracts. On your answer sheet, write the title of one of the papers that interests you, and describe in a few sentences (in your own words) what the study is about.

    Stop and Think

    3.1 How close is the nearest tree-ring research site from where you live? List all the information about the site here.

    3.2 Describe one of the research projects that you found from Google Scholar, and describe in a few sentences (in your own words) what the study is about.

    3.3 Why do you think it is important to do a search of the literature before you embark on a research effort?