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Courses in Dendrochronology

We offer three courses in Dendrochronology through the Department of Geography on a rotating basis:

Geography 432: Dendrochronology. This is offered every other academic year, either fall or spring semester and is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. This course introduces the students to tree-ring analysis and counts 4 hours of class credit. The course is tught through three 50-minute lectures and one two-hour laboratory exercise on a weekly basis.

Geography 533: Topics in Dendrochronology. This is usually offered every other spring semester. This is a 3-hour course that emphasizes current topics critical to the research of our laboratory and graduate students. I teach this topics course as a combination of lectures, labs, and seminar discussions. Recent topics we covered included: divergence, temporal instability, fire-climate relationships, and multiple working hypotheses.

Geography 632: Seminar in Dendrochronology. This is offered every other fall semester. This 3-hour course is open only to graduate students. The seminar emphasizes open discussion on recent topics and important papers and requires original research be conducted, resulting in a manuscript suitable for publication.

Instruction in all three classes is highly visual, just like the science itself, and benefits from the use of PowerPoint lectures that cover a wide variety of topics relevant to Dendrochronology.

Students practice creating skeleton plots from Engelmann spruce in the first Seminar in Dendrochronology ever offered at the University of Tennessee (Fall 2002).

Students practice creating skeleton plots from Engelmann spruce in the first Seminar in Dendrochronology ever offered at the University of Tennessee (Fall 2002).

Classroom instruction benefits greatly from several instructional equipment grants awarded to the Department of Geography and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Science that allowed us to purchase 15 new stereozoom boom-arm microscopes and 26 new increment borers in various lengths. This equipment supplements the 12 microscopes and 80 increment borers available to students conducting research in our laboratory facilities. We feel we are now the best equipped teaching and research laboratory in the United States dedicated solely to tree-ring research.

Students practice creating skeleton plots in the first formal course in Dendrochronology ever offered at the University of Tennessee (Spring 2001).

Students practice creating skeleton plots in the first formal course in Dendrochronology ever offered at the University of Tennessee (Spring 2001).

A historic moment (see figure above) — the first course in dendrochronology at the University of Tennessee, Geography 432, was offered during the Spring Semester of 2001 (January-May). The fifteen graduate students enrolled in this course were taught the history of tree-ring science, principles and techniques in dendrochronology, and applications of dendrochronology. Laboratory sessions included exercises on creating skeleton plots, techniques in graphical and statistical crossdating, and anomalous ring recognition.

Lisa Boulton (right), George Smith (center), and Alan Jolly (left) practice creating skeleton plots from Engelmann spruce collected in southern Arizona.

Lisa Boulton (right), George Smith (center), and Alan Jolly (left) practice creating skeleton plots from Engelmann spruce collected in southern Arizona.

In Fall 2002, we offered our first seminar course in Dendrochronology and saw an enrollment of 11 graduate students. This course offered weekly discussions on recently published papers that focused on research topics considered vital in understanding global change. Each student was required to undertake an original research project, beginning with core collection and processing, and laboratory analysis and interpretation, resulting in a research paper in near-publication format. In addition, we offered several hands-on laboratory exercises that emphasized topics ranging from the creation of skeleton plots to interpreting the output from the COFECHA software.

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