Reconstructing Chronologies through Tree Ring Increments

Hey y’all! My name is Aileen Qin. I attend Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, but I am originally from Houston, Texas. I love Texas and the Gulf Coast with all my heart and I am so excited to be here in Port Aransas!

I will be working with Dr. Bryan Black on a project involving tree and geoduck chronologies and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO. The PDO is kind of like the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in that they are both cyclic climatic fluctuations of sea surface temperature, pressure, and wind direction. These fluctuations have prodigious impacts on oceanic nutrient cycling, tropical cyclone occurrence, and weather conditions on land. This in turn affects fisheries, forest fire occurrence, tourism, vegetation growth, and safety for people in North America.

Though chronologies of the PDO have been recreated through tree increments, there is little agreement between the timelines on what the PDO may have looked like before the 1900s. The goal of Dr. Black’s lab for the next three years is to create a multi proxy timeline using geoduck chronologies and tree ring data so that patterns of the PDO may be studied further and the effects of current changes in climate can be seen. I will be helping by cleaning and running statistical analyses on tree ring data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. I will compare the chronologies to the 20-30 year pattern the PDO is on to see if/how the signal has changed over previous centuries according to the tree rings.

Admittedly, it was a little hard to get excited about the PDO initially, but after Dr. Black explained how important it was and how revolutionary the research we are doing is, I’m super excited to start working! I’m also kind of excited I don’t have to get my hands too dirty since I’m just going to be sorting through online databases. It’s definitely hard work, but it’s not messy. I’m a little bit of a princess (though I would be willing to get my hands dirty I promise!), so it’s a relief to be sitting in an air conditioned lab even if it means sorting through thousands of data sets. I can’t wait to see what I stumble upon!

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