January 22 2008
Jim Speer, associate professor of geography and geology in the department of environmental and ecological science, served as a member-at-large on the societyâ€™s executive board for four years before his election as president. His presidential term will be for two years. Speer and ISU students have studied trees felled by Hurricane Rita in 2006, as well as the effects of cicadas in more than 600 trees around Indiana, including in Shakamak State Park, around Bloomington, the Greene-Sullivan State Forest and the Marry Lea Environmental Center near Fort Wayne.
The society has about 200 members, but serves a global community of dendrochronologists, or tree-ring researchers, of more than 1,000 people. Speer is one of only three professional dendrochronologists in Indiana.
â€œDendrochronology uses the annual growth of trees as an environmental recorder to examine the past occurrence of rainfall, temperature, fires, insect outbreaks, landslides and avalanches to name a few,â€ he said. â€œAnything that affects tree growth can be recorded by the trees and later reconstructed by a dendrochronologist.â€
Speer said he would like to have the Tree-Ring Society help new laboratories of tree-ring research develop around the world. The expertise of the Tree-Ring Society could help new labs in Nepal, Thailand and Brazil to flourish.
â€œIn many parts of the world, as in the United States, old forests are dwindling,â€ he said. â€œDendrochronology provides a way to record this ancient history from old forests. The trees record the history of their lives in their annual rings as they grow. When a forest burns or is cut down, this history is gone forever. But if we can study the tree rings, we can preserve this record.â€
Dendrochronologists have developed records that extend back 10,000 years in Ireland, Germany and California.
â€œI am excited about leading this society to further educate the public about tree-ring research and about the environmental history of the planet from before written records,â€ Speer said.
Contact: Jim Speer, associate professor of geography and geology, department of environmental and ecological sciences, Indiana State University, (812) 237-2257 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Jennifer Sicking, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, (812) 237-7297 or email@example.com
Cutline: Jim Speer, ISU associate professor of geography and geology, examines tree rings. (File photo/ISU)
An Indiana State University professor, Jim Speer, has been elected president of the Tree-Ring Society, which promotes education and research in the science of studying the annual growth rings in trees.