Tree-ring studies in the Cascade Range and Puget Lowland

Undergraduate Field Studies and Research in the Earth Sciences at Centralia College

updated March 23, 2016

Contents

Introduction
Investigation of the submerged subfossil forest in Lake Kapowsin, Washington  
Oral histories of local tribes that describe ancient volcanic catastrophes in the Puget Lowland  
Investigations of of the formation of Irely Lake in Olympic National Park and of the ghost forest that's in it
Glacier Lake Landslide     Puzzle of the ~2,300 yr B.P. buried and submerged trees   
Research published at the Northwest Scientific Association's 84th Annual Meeting at Portland State University in Portland Oregon

2nd Undergraduate Geoscience Research Conference—April 19, 2013 at the University of Puget Sound  Tacoma WA

~1,100 yr B.P. buried forests in the Puyallup and Duwamish River valleys [coming soon]
Centralia College Researchers in the News  



Introduction

Field and lab research gives students experience in making observations about the natural world while doing field studies, collecting data, taking notes, conducting lab work, and writing up and communicating about their inquiries. They not only learn how to organize a study, but find out that field and lab studies help you to direct and focus your research—It's an iterative process.

Investigation of drowned forest in Lake Kapowsin

Geology student Jordan Conner received a grant from the Centralia College Foundation to investigate and obtain a radiocarbon age on the submerged forest in Lake Kapowsin. Lake Kapowsin had been nominated to be the first freshwater aquatic reserve in the state of Washington. In an additional experimental twist, student Danielle Z'berg volunteered to attempt to take an increment core of a submerged tree. On May 10, 2015 a small flotilla consisting of Jordan and Pat Pringle in a kayak and Jordan, two of her technical diving instructors and friends and family in a boat ventured out onto Lake Kapowsin. Danielle and her team were able to use 20-inch increment borer to take samples of two of the submerged trees while Jordan and Professor Pat conducted reconnaissance from their kayak on the surface and took a wedge sample from the top of the second of two trees cored by Danielle.

Danielle was able to take two cores, one consisting of about 65 annual growth rings; and the other, a 14-inch core of a ~4 ft diameter Douglas-fir with 429 rings!
A major reason for considering this study was that US Geological Survey geologist "Rocky" Crandell had interpreted that Lake Kapowsin had been formed by the damming of Kapowsin Creek by the great Electron Mudflow from Mount Rainier, which has been dated to about CE 1500 10 yr.  In order to minimize errors, Jordan studied the radiocarbon calibration curve to ascertain the optimum location to sample for radiocarbon dating that would correlate with the steepest part of the radiocarbon decay curve. She examined the annual growth rings of the samples to find that specimen. She presented a poster at the 2015 Centralia College Capstone Conference, although the results of the radiocarbon analysis were not available until after the conference. Her choice of of a sample from 62 rings from the outermost rings proved to be fortuitous and yielded results of ~ 1476–1506 CE with the 62-ring offset factored in—consistent with wiggle-match radiocarbon dating of the Electron Mudflow.

Danielle have an oral presentation and poster on the technical aspects of scuba diving to core subfossil trees at the Centralia College Capstone Conference in 2015. Both Jordan and Danielle have updated their posters and will be presenting them at the 2016 AGU spring meeting Virtual Poster Session.

Below left: George Potts, Bert Brezicha, and Danielle Z'berg surface after coring a subfossil Douglas-fir in Lake Kapowsin WA, May 10, 2015. Below right: Jordan Conner sands a mounted increment core of one of the subfossil trees from Lake Kapowsin.

George Potts, Bert Brezicha, and Danielle Z'berg surface after coring one of the subfossil trees in Lake Kapowsin WAJordan Conner sanding a mounted core of a subfossil tree from Lake Kapowsin WA.


Oral histories of local tribes that describe ancient volcanic catastrophes in the Puget Lowland

Michelle Kearns (BA The Evergreen State College, 2015; Centralia College grad 2013) researched oral histories of local tribes from several sources that appear to describe volcanic events that occurred in the Puget Lowland more than 1000 years ago. The stories are quite compelling! Her research became part of her academic program at Evergreen. In April of 2015 she presented a poster of her research at the Washington Hydrogeology Symposium in Tacoma WA.

Kearns, Michelle; Pringle, Patrick T., 2015, Are some oral histories of Puget Lowland tribes a cultural memory of catastrophic laharic floods from Mount Rainier in the White and Puyallup Rivers more than 1000 years ago?  [abstract]: IN 10th Washington Hydrogeology Symposium Steering Committee, Program and abstracts of the 10th Washington Hydrogeology Symposium, p. 58. [Access at  http://depts.washington.edu/uwconf/wordpress/wahgs/; download entire poster at oral_histories_lahars_whs2015_42x56.pdf]

Below Michelle Kearns and conference chair Andy Gendazek at the 2015 Washington Hydrogeology Symposium.

Michelle Kearns and Andy Gendaszek at the 2015 Washington Hydrogeology Symposium


Investigations of the formation of Irely Lake and its ghost forest in Olympic National Park


Irely Lake, northeast of Lake Quinault, hosts a ghost forest. Professor Karl Wegmann of North Carolina State Univ. began investigating the lake in 2003 while working at the Washington Division of Geology and Earth Sciences. The lake contains a "ghost forest" of subfossil trees, so with Professor Wegmann's encouragement, Centralia College student Garret Marlantes began investigations of the lake during the summer of 2014 to determine what formed the lake and killed the trees. Garret repolished, scanned, and remeasured increment cores taken by Karl Wegmann and also took new samples of fire-charred snags and living old-growth trees near the lake in hopes of using dendrochronology to solve the mystery of the ghost forest. Further, Garret investigated the outlet area of Irely Lake near adjoining Big Creek, a study made easier because the lake had totally dried up by late August. Garret observed that the snags in the lake all showed evidence of charring and fire. Additionally, flooding in Big Creek, to which Irely Creek drains, had not only blocked the outlet of Irely Creek, which flows into the lake, but also had constructed a sandy delta in the west portion of Irely Lake. The top of this reentrant delta is at the same elevation as the highest lakewater in Irely lake. Evidently the fire that killed the trees now in the lake had occurred before the flooding and aggradation in Big Creek had blocked off Irely Creek to form Irely Lake. Garret is continuing to study the tree-ring samples from the subfossil trees and ancient living trees nearby in an effort determine the age of the fire that charred, and killed, the trees. Garret presented preliminary results of the investigation at the 2014 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Vancouver BC Canada.

The abstract and poster presented by Garret at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting 2014 in Vancouver BC Canada can be viewed here:
Marlantes, Garret A.; Pringle, Patrick T.; Wegmann, Karl W., 2014, Investigation of subfossil trees at Irely Lake, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA [abstract]: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 46, paper 208–52. [Accessed on October 15, 2014 at https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2014AM/webprogram/Paper250422.html; download poster at http://www.centralia.edu/academics/earthscience/pubs/Irely_marlantes_pringle_wegmann_gsa2014_final.pdf]


Garret Marlantes coring a fire-charred snag at Irely Lake
Above: Garret Marlantes cores a dead western redcedar snag north of Irely Lake, May 2014.

Garret Marlantes investigating a subfossil snag in the dry bed of Irely Lake, August 2014

Above: Garret Marlantes investigates a subfossil western redcedar snag in the dry bed of Irely Lake, August 2014.
Garret Marlantes discusses the Irely Lake research project with geology instructor Kathryn Hoppe of Green River Community College
Above, Garret Marlantes discusses the Irely Lake research project with geology instructor Kathryn Hoppe of Green River Community College at the 2014 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Vancouver BC Canada.
Michelle Kearns of Evergreen State College (left) helps Garret Marlantes show his poster to Katryn Wiese and Jennifer Leman at a workshop/discussion session on undergraduate research hosted by the NAGT and attended by a representative of the National Science Foundation.
Above: 2014 GSA Vancouver BC Canada: Centralia College graduate Michelle Kearns, now of Evergreen State College (left) helps Garret Marlantes show his poster to Katryn Wiese and Jennifer Leman at a workshop/discussion session on undergraduate research hosted by the NAGT (National Assoc. of Geoscience Teachers) and attended by a representative of the National Science Foundation.

February 2015 BlazerBuzzBlog about Garret's research journey   


Investigations of Glacier Lake landslide and other landslides near Packwood, Washington

Colleen Suter cores a Douglas-fir atop the Glacier Lake rockslide while Christina Williams looks on

Colleen Suter takes a core of a Douglas-fir atop the Glacier Lake rockslide deposit while Christina Williams waits to give her break from the coring. The landslide is one of several young rockslide-debris avalanches in the southwest Washington Cascade Range near Packwood. Estimating the age of the oldest tree growing atop the landslide will help establish a minimum age.
Colleen and Christina slide a straw sleeve around the core
Christina and Colleen slide a straw sleeve over the core as they prepare to extract it from the bit.

Christina extracts core
The core cooperates and comes out in one piece!

And back at the Centralia College tree-ring lab...

Colleen and Christina mounting cores from Glacier Lake landslide
...the cores are untwisted by steaming (if necessary), glued down to pieces of wood lath, and the taped for drying.

Christina sanding a Glacier Lake core
When the glue is dry, the tape is removed and the cores are sanded/polished ending with 2000 grit abrasive paper (the kind use in autobody finishing). The samples were then blasted with compressed air to remove any grit.

Colleen exams the annual growth rings with a stereomicroscope.

Colleen examines the annual growth rings of the Glacier Lake trees with a stereomicroscope.

the abstract
Suter, Colleen; Pringle, Patrick Patrick T.; Schuster, Robert L., 2013, New environmental and radiocarbon evidence for the ages of two Holocene landslide-dammed lakes in the southern Washington Cascade Range, USA [abstract]: Northwest Scientific Association, Annual Meeting, 84th, p. 78–79.

Colleen and Katie Glew, President of NWSA, at the poster session.
Colleen and Katie Glew, outgoing President of the Northwest Scientific Association, at the poster session.
Centralia Chronicle blurb on Colleen and Christina's NWSA presentations 

Return to the top of the page.

Puzzle of the ~2,300 yr B.P. subfossil trees
We compared the mysteriously similar radiocarbon ages of buried and/or submerged trees at several sites in, and near the Puget Lowland and are using tree-ring methods to test possible correlations.

the abstract

Pringle, Patrick T.; Williams, Christina A., 2013, What geologic event(s) killed the circa 2,300 yr B.P. submerged or buried subfossil trees at multiple sites in and near the Puget Lowland, Washington USA? Northwest Scientific Association, Annual Meeting, 84th, p. 69–70.

Subfossil trees lying in Woodland Creek near Olympia WA
Subfossil trees in Woodland Creek near Olympia, Washington are preserved because they are in the intertidal zone of Henderson Inlet. The middle tree yielded a radiocarbon age of ~2,300 yr B.P. What killed the trees?

Christina Williams discusses the poster with Serrafina Ferri and Megan Walsh of  Centralia Washington University.
Christina Williams discusses the poster with Serrafina Ferri and Megan Walsh of  Centralia Washington University.

Christina Williams discusses the poster with David Jordan of Trinity College in BC.
Christina Williams discusses the poster with David Jordan of Trinity College in BC.



Riding the streetcar in Portland

Riding the streetcar in Portland after the opening reception at the NW Science meeting.

2nd Undergraduate Geoscience Research Conference—April 19, 2013 at the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma WA


Colleen Suter and Michelle Kearns attended the conference with Pat Pringle. Participants were from the University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University, University of Washington Tacoma, and Centralia College. 

Colleen Suter shows her poster at the 2nd Undergraduate Research Conference at UPS

Colleen Suter discusses her poster with Professor Kena Fox-Dobbs of the University of Puget Sound Geology Dept. while Michelle Kearns looks on. Barry Goldstein of UPS at right and Duncan Foley of Pacific Lutheran University in the background.The conference was held in the science building at the Univer sity of Puget Sound. Michelle is just beginning a research project looking at subfossil trees buried ~1,100 years ago in the Puyallup and White River valleys.


Centralia College Researchers in the News

STEM students publish research at the Northwest Scientific Association 2013 Annual Meeting in Portland OR August 12, 2013
STEM students wow crowd with CAPSTONE research presentations by electronics and robotics students and others fields  July 9, 2014



Patrick Pringle, webmaster. Send communications to ppringle 'at' centralia.edu