Scientists explain to students how tree rings mark the history of the environment
U.S. Forest Service scientists are putting the wonders of climate change into the hands of middle school students through the latest edition of the Natural Inquirer, a science education journal that showcases in-depth scientific research in a format for young people.
The Winter 2011 edition of the Natural Inquirer is an 85-page look at climate change. Included is research about the short-term atmospheric cycle known as El Nino, which happens every four to seven years as opposed to some cycles that last thousands of years. Students will learn how the use of 28 years of satellite images helps scientists measure the age and biomass of forests. And readers of the journal will go deep inside a tree to discover the world of dendrochronology, or the study of “tree time” that measures the age of trees and helps scientists better understand the history of the environment around the trees.
“Climate change didn't come out of nowhere as a 20th-Century phenomenon,” said Connie Millar, a dendrochronologist with the Forest Service’sPacific Southwest Research Station in Albany, Calif. “Climates change naturally, and life on Earth responds to those changes. Dynamism, not stasis, is the only certainty. We must learn to live and work within that framework, especially as we now confront the enormous new challenges as a result of the dominant human impact on the climate system.”
Even the elusive wolverine makes an appearance in the Natural Inquirer, with students learning how the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family has baffled scientists for years and how technology is helping researchers gain a better understanding of the mammals.
The Natural Inquirer is distributed to hundreds of educators across the country. Current and previous editions are available in PDF format from theNatural Inquirer website.
Each edition, which focuses on a specific issue, concerns research about nature, trees, wildlife, insects, outdoor activities and water. Educators can use lesson plans provided in each issue and students become scientists when they do the “Discovery FACTivity” at the end of each article.
“The Natural Inquirer is an innovative way to connect young people with the scientists who study our natural environment while encouraging them to get outdoors,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Without the outdoor experiences, we cannot fully appreciate the value of clean air, clear water, pristine forests and beautiful open spaces. The continued legacy of natural resources conservation depends on future generations who care about the environment and ecological services forests and grasslands provide.”