Initial Publication Date: October 13, 2017

Part 2: Explore the Research Sites

In this section, you will investigate three tree-ring sites in the northern latitudes that are of great interest to tree-ring scientists: the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska, Ondur Zuun Nuruu (OZN) in Northern Mongolia, and Esso from the Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east region of Russia. All of these sites were used as part of a larger study that combined 54 tree-ring sites from the northern latitudes to reconstruct Northern Hemisphere temperature variations over the past thousand years. You will explore this reconstruction in Part 4 of this lab.

To get started in learning more about how scientists reconstructed how temperatures varied in the northern latitudes, let's learn more about the sites. It is important to understand the setting and ecology of the region, or regions, you are studying. How would you describe these sites? What type of trees and vegetation grow there? Who lives there and uses the forests?


1. Explore a tree-ring site at Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Right click on the Google Maps link and open it in a new window. Type "Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center" into the Search Box. When the map comes up, click on satellite view.

2. Zoom out so you can see the location of the visitor center in relation to the glacier. The trail beginning at the visitor center is called the E. Glacial Trail and is mapped with 360 degree imagery (see figure to the right). The trees growing along this trail are near the coast, an area that is wetter than the interior. This region is part of the Pacific temperate rainforest ecosystem. The area is characterized by high annual rainfall (33 to 105 inches), great biodiversity--it is home to 350 bird and mammal species--and is dominated by many conifer species.

3. Using the pegman, drop into various parts of the trail and describe the forests to the best of your ability. For example, are the forests diverse? Are there shrubs and other plants? Is there a lot of soil that you can see? Do you see mostly broad leaf deciduous trees or conifers?

Tree-ring scientists are always looking for old trees. You can't tell how old a tree is just by looking at it, but some hints that a tree is old are that it will have a wider trunk and the lower branches will be thicker. A tree that looks like it is spiraling and twisting is also a good indicator of age. After exploring around at this site what are the oldest looking trees you could identify? Take a screen shot of a good example of a research-worthy tree.

Stop and Think

2.1 Describe the nature of the forest along the E. Glacial Trail. Are the forests diverse? Are there shrubs and other plants? Is there a lot of soil that you can see? Do you see mostly broad leaf deciduous trees or conifers?

2.2 Paste your screen shot of the oldest looking tree or trees that you could find on your answer sheet. Remember that older trees will have wider trunks and thicker lower branches. Twisting or spiraling of the trunk is also a good indicator of age.

4. Explore trees near site Ondur Zuun Nuruu (OZN) in Northern Mongolia

You might wonder... why Mongolia? Why travel to such an isolated part of the world to do tree-ring science? Sometimes scientists get inspired by unexpected events. Listen to Dr. Rosanne D'Arrigo describe how she began a decades long research effort in Mongolia.

5. When you mention Mongolia, most people think of Genghis Khan, traditional Mongolian wrestling, or a region with great grassy plains. But there are also relatively pristine, old-growth forests growing in many regions in Mongolia that have been revered by the people who live there, and are of great interest to scientists. Right click to open this image of a traditional Mongolian winter camp near Ondur Zuun Nuruu; a place you might camp if you traveled to Mongolia to study trees in this region. Notice the many trees growing on the nearby hills.

6. To examine similar trees as the ones found near the OZN site, right click on the Ondur Zuun Nuru link.

Stop and Think

2.3 What sparked Dr. D'Arrigo's interest in doing research in Mongolia?

2.4 Explain the circumstances that led to Dr. D'Arrigo starting a major research project in Mongolia.

2.5 Describe the site conditions and forests you see in the two 360 images from Mongolia.

2.6 How does this Mongolian forest differ from the one you looked at near the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska?

7. Explore trees from the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia

Kamchatka, Russia is an extremely remote peninsula. This area is so remote that very little of the peninsula is mapped with 360° view imagery. Take a look at trees that are growing near an important research site named Esso. There are quite a few older looking trees in this image is you look carefully. Hopefully we wouldn't be there sampling tree cores in winter with snow on the ground however! Summer is a far better time to launch a field expedition. Right click on the Esso link and open it in a new window. Pan around and examine the site conditions and trees in the area.

Stop and Think

2.7 Describe the environment at this site and the trees you see in this region.

2.8 How does this site compare to the site from Alaska and Mongolia? Is there anything that they have in common? Note any significant differences among the three sites.