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Kamloops to get new tree-ring laboratory

Headed by Dr. Jill Harvey, the lab will advance understanding of the ecological effects of fire and climate change in montane forests
 | July 7, 2021
Dr. Jill Harvey said her new lab will provide students with ample time in the field. Photo submitted.

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) is creating a laboratory dedicated to studying tree rings and how wildfires, climate change and droughts impact forests in the region. 

The Fire and Forest Ecology Centre (FFEC) will be the first lab dedicated to studying tree rings and forest ecology at TRU.

“The lab will basically consist of myself, as well as the graduate students and undergraduate students that I work with,” said Dr. Jill Harvey. 

Harvey was recently granted the Canadian Research Chair (CRC) in Fire Ecology, a designation that comes with secure medium-term funding that can be reapplied for. 

“[My] students will be involved in a variety of different projects that relate to the CRC research, and also any other research grants that come in to support my program.”

The lab will be set up to analyze tree rings, which can provide fascinating insight into the history of a forest, she explained. By studying tree rings, Harvey said she hopes to gain a better understanding of the ecological effects of fire and climate change in montane forests.

Montane forests are found in central British Columbia and western Alberta and characterized by their warm and dry climate. 

Studying core samples is integral to the work that will go down at TRU’s Fire and Forest Ecology Centre . Photo submitted.

At the heart of her research will be harvesting core samples from area trees. 

The new lab will be equipped with everything from microspects to advanced computers with specialized software that will assist Harvey and her team in analyzing the tree rings and determining the story they tell. 

Harvey said  she is thrilled to be establishing the lab in Kamloops. 

“I think it’s probably one of the best places in the world for me to conduct my research program, because of the access to the types of forests that I’m interested in,” she said. 

“I work a lot with Douglas fir trees, Ponderosa pine… [and] spruce and Lodgepole pine.” 

As a university, TRU supports numerous masters programs, and Harvey said she’s looking forward to working with both graduate and undergraduate students. 

She said that unlike some lab work, which can be more focussed on data analysis, the FFEC will give students the opportunity to study something tangible, namely the tree rings they help collect. 

“I find that undergraduate graduate students love field work, and so a big part of my program is spending a lot of time outside in the spring, summer and fall collecting our research and doing research with the students,” she said. 

“I really love being out in the field with my students.” 

Harvey has also received nearly $75,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation that will support the development of the FFEC.

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