Take advantage of opportunity to travel
This is the advice Benedetta Gianangeli, a master’s student from the University of Florence, would give other students. Try to come to Bergen!
Gianangeli is at BIO at the Ecological & Environmental Change Research Group for about 6 weeks to work with Associate Professor Knut Krzywinski as well as Researcher and Project Leader Gidske Leknæs Andersen. Together they are working to develop a technique to date tree core samples gathered from trees growing in hyper arid climates in Egypt and Sudan. Because of the lack of seasons, trees in this area do not develop season growth rings making it difficult to easily determine age estimates.
They believe that some of their samples may come from trees that may be up to 600 years old! These cores may therefore be able to reveal valuable information about climate change over this period.
The ACACIA project involves a large team of researchers from different countries. Here in Bergen the work will involve polishing the tree cores for easier viewing, then scanning and photographing them. The patterns that become apparent will be compared with climate records. Unfortunately climate records are largely non-existent or incomplete from this area. However, they have found a meteorological station with records that extend back 100 years that they can use for comparison and calibration with the tree core isotope patterns. In addition colleagues at Swansea University will investigate the stable isotopes O18 and C13 of the cores as climate proxies and C14 will be used for dating
Another possible dating method they will explore is to use the presence of periodic white lines in the cores. These lines contain the compound calcium oxalate and are believed to be an effect of a temporary pause in growth. This may reflect periods of no rain, but it may also be related to the practice of coppicing. Coppicing is a traditional management practice whereby trees are regularly cut back to stumps. The resulting new shoots are allowed to re-grow producing an important source of fodder after a few years. Repeating this process essentially keeps a tree at a juvenile stage – even though it could be very old! Learning more about the traditional coppicing practices from this region may allow these white lines to help with aging the tree cores. Colleagues from Egypt and Sudan with Prof. Emeritus Richard Pierce (University of Bergen) and Dr. Joseph Hobbs (University of Missouri) will help to understand the relationship between environment and local people.
Gianangeli is no stranger to different environments. She lived 2½ years on the smallest oasis in Egypt, Farafra, where she was involved in an environmental project that was a collaboration between Egypt and Italy.
Gianangeli says that it was really exciting for her to be able to come to Bergen. She feels that it is really well structured at the Department and is so appreciative of her welcome. She recommends that all students take advantage of opportunities to travel to other research institutes. It gives one a chance to learn new techniques and use different equipment, she says.