Fireside lecture: What Ancient Trees Tell us

On Friday, March 14, the weekly Fireside Lecture will feature Dr. Cathy Connor, professor of geology at the University of Alaska Southeast Natural Science Department. The lecture will focus on the ancient trees discovered recently that melted out of the ice as the Mendenhall Glacier receded.

In this rapidly warming 21st century, ancient woody records are being exhumed as melting glaciers such as Mendenhall expose the forests they once overran in colder times. The ancient trees have left records through their layers of dispersed pollen trapped in bogs and their yearly additions of wood, preserved in myriad ways. They inform us of the wet and dry seasons, of fires and flooding, and of the changing climate throughout the last 13,000 years or so. Carbon atoms in the wood enable radiocarbon dating and allow us to anchor ancient events in time.

The lecture will take listeners back to a time before the temperate rainforest existed, to a time when First Alaskans were making the area their own. As the glaciers melted thousands of years ago, forests began to grow on emerging sea beds, enabling trees to establish themselves from nearby refuges that had not been covered by ice.

Dr. Connor has been teaching Earth Sciences courses at UAS since 1991. Her research colleagues and students have explored the dynamic Southeast landscape, providing extensive details that contribute to understanding how life developed along the Panhandle. She is one of many local experts who share their knowledge during seasonal staff training at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

Fireside Lectures are sponsored by the USDA Forest Service at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. The presentations are free and occur at 6:30 p.m. Fridays with a repeat at 8 p.m. Doors open at 6pm. For details, call 789-0097.


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