Field work was a really cool experience. My field work was in interior Alaska, right smack dab in the middle of the state (not quite I was in the middle as far as north and south goes but I was near the eastern border of the state about 50km from the Canadian border in Northway Alaska). What I was doing was coring black spruce trees for reaction wood. (Reaction wood is a darker stronger type of wood that can be seen with the naked eye. Reaction wood forms to compensate for physical stressors (e.g., tilting due to mass wasting) and forms on the opposite side of the applied force.)
This was done for a full credit course taught by Dr. Alexander Stewart and Trent Hubbard (’94) over three days taking 60 samples from 30 trees. (I went straight from a full credit course taught by Eileen Visser and Dr. Stewart that was about 10 days and then when everyone left Dr. Stewart, Trent Hubbard drove north and we started our work independently from the course) We were interested in the effects of mass wasting events (landslides) on the trees. The trees we examined were on a drunken forest floor, a landscape that sloped in different directions (due to the annual freezing and thawing of permafrost), and the tilting of the trees was what was of interest.
I then continued the work back in Canton with a summer fellowship, where I counted tree rings and made skeleton plots of the trees. By looking at the rings you can tell whether the tree had a good growing year or a not so good growing year, and we were hoping to find patterns that might suggests correlations between things like temperature and mass wasting events. I presented a poster based on my work at the Geological Society of America meeting in Vancouver British Columbia.
My only disappointment with the project is that I didn’t see a bear in Alaska.