Kimball Hansen and Dr. Matthew Bekker, Department of Geography
The goal of this project was continue the previous avalanche chronology of Loafer Mountain that my mentor professor started and had me finish in 2011. We wanted to incorporate using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) which could help us find better results for our avalanche chronology. By using a GIS we can map our samples and thus provide a more in-depth analysis of the avalanche path by providing the width and magnitude.
This project is important because it answers many questions. Dendrochronology – the study of tree rings – helps to determine when avalanches occur based on the impact they have made on the tree-rings. Avalanches damage trees and leave scars and change the width of the rings due to stress they place on the tree. The rings are analyzed and a chronology is constructed to determine key avalanche “marker” years. This helps to date major as well as minor avalanches. With a reliable chronology of past avalanches, we are able to predict when future avalanches will occur, especially the significant larger ones. While this information is valuable, we want to know the magnitude of width of those avalanches to help predict in greater detail the magnitude of future avalanches. This is where it is critical to map the geomorphology of the in-situ data of our research.
Project Profile Body
My plan for this research is use existing research done previously by myself and my mentor. This helps to establish a strong foundation. We will collect the data at the same avalanche path we used from before but this time we will travel farther up the ravine to collect “live” in-situ samples. We expect to be able to present this research in a poster presentation at the regional and national AAG conference. The ultimate goal, however, is to publish the research in a scholarly journal.
Anticipated Academic Outcome
The expected outcome for this research project is to present at various conferences. The Association for American Geographers (AAG) has a regional as well as national conference in Utah and Los Angeles respectively. While writing the proposal for the ORCA Grant I was able to present research on this subject with limited data at the regional conference. Since then I have been able to obtain more data and continue the analysis of my research and presented a poster at the National AAG meeting in Los Angeles in April 2013. I did make a copy of my poster and submitted it in the local BYU Fulton Conference because I was not able to attend it in person due to being at the National AAG meeting in LA. The original goal for this research project was to write and publish a paper in an academic journal but time restraints hindered that and proved unsuccessful. The research and presentation of the poster was still prestigious and a terrific learning opportunity. The skills to present the research proved invaluable.
I am qualified to pursue this project because my mentor selected me to do it. He has published multiple papers on dendrochronology at national and world-wide conferences. His knowledge on the subject is among the top professionals in this country. I have research and worked on previous projects with him on dendrochronology and can and will continue my knowledge of it to incorporate it into this research here.
There were several milestones for completing this project. The first large milestone was to collect the data. This data collection was unique compared to previous research data collection projects. Instead of taking one sample per tree we took four core samples from each tree. We did this because one core isn’t enough to tell the complete story. Sometimes evidence of an avalanche is only evident in a part of the tree. By taking four samples we can determine a strong chronology of all the different types of avalanche evidence. The lab work for this research also will take longer than usual because we have quadrupled the amount of samples. These samples need to be sanded so they can be viewed under a binocular microscope. However with these long milestones, we planned to present the research at the national AAG in the spring of 2013 in Los Angeles. After that, my mentor and I discussed publishing the research in a scholarly journal. However because of graduation coming so soon I was not able to publish it in a scholarly journal.