States Sampled: Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa,
North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska
Trees Cored: 130
Total Mileage: ~5350 (or ~$650 in gas)
Total In-Car Hours: ~80
I managed to get Google Maps to track our whole trip 🙂
Site 13: Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
The South Dakota site was much more cooperative than it’s neighbor to the north…. We had to hike over a hill and down to the stand, which was a nice little exercise break after being in the car so long. Also, the stand was all Pinus ponderosa. I’m starting to understand why everyone loves Pinus – it’s such an agreeable genus. It’s super easy to core, super easy to process later in the lab (because it produces really clear rings), and smells nice. What’s not to love? In fact, I got a couple cores that went nearly the full cross-section of the tree. This is not generally necessary for isotope work (at least with carbon or oxygen), but nitrogen requires so much tissue that being able to ‘double up’ on the amount we take with one core might help us get higher resolution in the analysis.
We were also visited by some curious deer while coring. There was a small herd of bison on the next hill, but they didn’t come any nearer to us.
Site 14: Cedar Point Biological Station, Nebraska
Unlike Pinus, the Juniperus genus is decidedly *not* agreeable. This site consisted mostly of eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), which has low gnarly branches (that you have to crawl between) and has trouble with producing crumbly cores, which get stuck in the corer. Normally, a core you extract is all in one piece (or maybe two), and slides out fairly easily. If it’s broken in numerous places, however, the pieces push against each other, kind of like a pile-up of cars on the highway, and jam up inside the corer. This is the problem for which our Iowa fish hatchery friend created the tool (it still needs a name). We had to use it in Nebraska to remove a couple of stuck cores from the corers and it works *wonderfully* Even with the trouble, we got ten good cores, and then headed back towards Manhattan!
Overall, I think the trip was a huge success. We stayed ahead of schedule almost the entire trip, and got back to Manhattan a half-day ahead of my estimation. With only one site causing major problems, we brought back 130 samples from 13 different states. Considering we had seven states represented before this trip, we managed to nearly TRIPLE our sampling spread. I’m not ready to totally scrap on North Dakota yet – I’ll get in touch with the park biologist on Monday and see what our options are. If we can’t find any usable trees, we may have to remove ND from the analysis. But, I haven’t given up hope yet 🙂
I have never been so happy to see this sign. I’m going to sleep in all weekend, maybe go for a run or a hike, and not spend a SINGLE SECOND in a car 😀
Check back here for more details on future sampling, and processing/analysis of the Spring Break cores!