Many trees in the Rocky Mountains were alive long before I was born- before my grandparents were born. These trees bore witness to an unprecedented rise in CO2 concentrations, and have weathered the associated changes in climate. In the past decade, however, many trees that survived two centuries of climate change have been killed by a tiny insect: the mountain pine beetle.
Dendrotempestology (it’s a mouthful I know!) is the study of the effects of hurricanes on trees. When people hear this, they normally spout something like, “Well, hurricanes kill the trees! Duh!” I quickly attempt to note that though the trees surrounding their houses may suffer substantial damage, many ecosystems are adapted to these disturbances and can respond positively to the damage. Many of these ecosystems occur very close to coastlines around the Gulf of Mexico. Abundant and skilled field research can connect the scientists, land-users, and ecology of the ecosystem.
When you do fieldwork far from where you are based during the year, particularly experimental field work, you find out just how much stuff can fit in a mini van. I go to school at the University of Wisconsin Madison but I do my research in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. This summer I jammed as much equipment as possible, two field techs, and my cat into a car and rolled out across Dakota prairies toward an adventure of bears, mountains, thunderstorms, and Big Skies of Yellowstone.