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UW-Platteville Students Studying Effects of Drought with Trees
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 07/12/2017

Five students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville are researching the influence of extreme drought and its implications on the state's ecology, groundwater resources and economy by studying tree rings from hundreds of trees throughout the Driftless Area of Southwest Wisconsin.

The newly launched, two-year Driftless Cedars project is being conducted through the school's Tree-Ring, Earth, and Environmental Sciences Laboratory, known as the TREES Lab. The research is being funded by the University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute in Madison, the United States Geological Survey and matching funds from UW-Platteville's College of Liberal Arts and Education and Department of Geography.

The project is led by Dr. Chris Underwood, assistant professor of geography at UW-Platteville and project lead principal investigator, and Dr. Evan Larson, associate professor of geography at UW-Platteville and project co-investigator. Student researchers will develop a network of tree-ring chronologies, or records of tree growth, across the Driftless Area in order to better understand patterns of drought and groundwater variability that will assist communities in designing adaptation strategies for water resources for the future.

"The research will enable analyses of long-term trends in hydrologic conditions that can be used to help develop adaptation strategies for businesses, farmers, public health officials, municipalities, resource managers and other stakeholders," said Underwood.

Using the science of dendrochronology, researchers will compare records to modern, instrumentally recorded climate data. If a strong relationship exists between tree growth and instrumental climate data over recent years, the tree-ring data can be used to estimate climate conditions over the entire lifespan of the trees.

Student researchers include Greg Arther, a senior geography major from Spring Grove, Illinois; Tia Federman, a junior geography major from Mineral Point, Wisconsin; Jonathan Ley, a senior geography major from Platteville; April Barr, a junior broad field science education major from McFarland, Wisconsin; and Elissa Bahr, a junior elementary STEM education major from Platteville.

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