The North American Dendroecological Fieldweek (NADEF) is a work-week that teaches the tools of dendrochronology, provides networking opportunities for students and professionals, and expands the benefits of dendrochronological records to new locations. Dendrochronology is the use of tree-rings to reconstruct environmental variables. Trees record everything that effects their growth and, therefore, become useful records of environmental history. Such things as past temperature, precipitation, fire, and insect outbreaks are recorded by the trees for their entire lifetime and can be tapped for this information. Each year, the fieldweeks provide professional development to forty students and researchers interested in learning the tools of dendrochronology. Tree-ring research is only taught as a formal class in a handful of universities in the United States so most students do not have access to this training. During the fieldweek, the participants conduct five unique research projects under the guidance of an experienced dendrochronologist. These five research projects usually include a climate reconstruction, fire history, insect outbreak reconstruction, and stand-age structure analysis. The participants work up the projects from field collection, through laboratory analysis, and the week culminates in the presentation of these research projects to the other fieldweek members and to managers from the local community.

With the importance of environmental change issues in today's society, the need for high resolution proxy records of climate and ecological variables is quickly growing and the tools of dendrochronology provide many of these records. This workshop will enable students to learn about the tools of dendrochronology and faculty and professionals to pick up this set of tools that are useful for ecosystem management. Understanding how forests function and what role disturbance plays in the natural balance of these forests if an important goal of today's scientists and forest managers. These fieldweeks provide the tools to study these questions and specifically provide these answers at the field stations where the fieldweek is held. The local managers will gain the results of five tree-ring based research projects on their managed lands.

Project Report

, which is a scientific training event for tree-ring research. Each year 40 participants and 10 group leaders come together at a new location, split into five groups, and work up original research projects from field sampling, through analysis, and ending with final presentations and reports on the work completed during the nine-day period. This educational experience is more valuable to the participants and group leaders because they are conducting original research without any known solution. The findings that they develop during the week can be used by the land managers for the area around the field station and provides new insight into natural areas that we study. We have had 222 participants come through this intensive training experience during the five year period of funding that we received from the National Science Foundation. We have completed 26 original research projects, involved 22 institutions, and have had 31 instructors (some of them multiple times) volunteer to teach at these events. NADEF brings together many of the top researchers in the field of dendrochronology each year for the best possible training for the participants and they also engage in constructive discussions between research laboratories. These research projects are often taken further to become the basis for thesis, dissertations, and grant proposals. We have published 11 peer-reviewed papers from the findings generated from this fieldweek. We have administered evaluations of our program every year during this grant and we consistently find that participants are very happy with their experiences at the fieldweek. We feel that the process of working through original research projects is the most engaging and educational technique that can be used to convey the methods and theory behind this intensive field and laboratory based scientific discipline.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Thomas J. Baerwald
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Indiana State University
Terre Haute
United States
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