Samuel Williams ’15 is currently conducting research at the Tree Ring Laboratory in the Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., working on the Blue Intensity Measurements Project with the Director of the Laboratory Edward R. Cook.
The opportunity came about through contacts he made while abroad last summer as a recipient of the Salisbury Summer International Internship Stipend. The stipend enabled him to travel to Sweden to conduct tree ring research and dendrochronology to study global climate change. While there, he also participated in an international climate change research conference and met Cook.
“He was working with Dr. Paul Krusic, with whom I interned last summer, and offered me work on his project this summer,” explains Williams, who notes the work this year is completely different from what he did last year, albeit the two relate to each other scientifically.
With Cook, he is using technology that scans tree rings and measures the intensity of the blue light spectrum passing through them to determine the differences in density among the rings. They then correlate how that density relates to climate.
“This is a new, lesser used method to study this,” says Williams. “Analyzing tree rings we learn how the vegetation and trees reacted to climate change and, based on the way they did in the past, we can determine how they’ll react in the future.”
The process is a long one – Williams has been in the lab since the beginning of June and hopes to have data by the time he leaves in early August.
“Running the process of scanning and using the software takes a while,” he says.
In addition to tree rings, other such paleoclimate indicators are ice cores and sediment samples and Williams had the opportunity to study climate change with some of these in his geoscience courses at HWS.
He intends to pursue graduate studies in climatology, looking more in depth into other areas of the field and different forms of research.
“I’ve learned a lot this summer; I’ve gained a lot of experience and know more about the science behind using paleoclimate indicators,” says the geoscience major with minors in environmental studies and political science.