Volume 2 2014

Water Resources Research

Tree Ring Study Gets Personal

When a story ran in the Aquatic Sciences Chronicle last fall about a tree ring study being conducted by Evan Larson, a Water Resources Institute researcher out of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Terri Liebmann took note.

The study involved taking core samples from more than 400 old oak trees to look for clues to past climate conditions.

Liebmann, Wisconsin Sea Grant Administrative Manager, knew just where to find some oaks. Her husband’s family owns 250 acres in southwest Wisconsin, in the area of the study, and she invited the research team over for a look. The researchers came once to scout the location and twice to core the trees. They weren’t able to finish, so the team will be coming out a fourth time for more coring.

“It was really interesting,” she said. “I got to learn how to core, and they told me a lot about the different soil types on the property.” Liebmann also learned that oaks sometimes leak red sap when cored. “That shocked me, but the researchers said it wasn’t abnormal and that the coring wasn’t hurting the trees.”

The trees on the family property are ancient—287 years, to be exact. Historically, it’s when Wisconsin—not even a state—was an outpost in France’s flourishing fur trade. As these oak saplings grew, elsewhere in the world Spain was in the process of recapturing Gibralter and Johann Sebastian Bach was making a name for himself as a composer.

Liebmann said that at the time they were cored, the trees on their land were the oldest in the study, but that the researchers have since discovered older ones. “Knowing that the area was so old was cool. We were happy to be part of the study, as I’m sure everyone else was who participated.”

The Aquatic Sciences Center is the administrative home of the
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute & University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute.

©2011 University of Wisconsin Board of Regents