2006 Research Grant Recipient - Carolyn Reardon
The ring cycle
It was on a field trip for a biogeography class that Carolyn Reardon
became enchanted by the mysteries of the bog. Reardon, a geography
and environmental studies student at New Brunswick's Mount
Allison University, was struck by the devastation of the wetlands
she saw in rural New Brunswick that had been mined of their peat. "It
became important for me," she says, "to find a method
for restoring them."
Peat harvesting for the horticulture industry is big business in
the province. The process removes all surface vegetation, turning
once-thriving peatlands into fields of clay. But some companies
have discovered dense layers of stumps and logs beneath the peat,
indicating areas occupied by forests up to 3,000 years ago.
With a grant from The Royal Canadian
Geographical Society Reardon
sampled larch and black spruce in ancient and modern bogs in the
Shippagan-Lamèque region of northern New Brunswick last summer.
She aims to provide insight that could one day help extraction companies
return their bogs to forestland.
Her research is an example of the pioneering work being carried
out in the Mount Allison Dendrochronology Laboratory (MAD Lab),
formed in 2003 by biologist Colin Laroque to study treering data.
Research has ranged from analyzing dead trees in a Newfoundland
old-growth forest in an attempt to save the threatened
pine marten to studying the rings
of wood turtle shells to determine how climate change affects growth
Many of Laroque's students have received RCGS grants, continuing
a relationship that began in 1991 when Laroque himself got a grant
from the Society to measure the ice depth on Alberta's Rae
"Fieldwork is an endangered activity in geography today," said
Christopher Burn, chair of the research and grants committee, at
the Society's Annual General Meeting in November. The value
of an RCGS grant, echoes Laroque, is that, aside from furthering
the work of the MAD Lab, it recognizes the importance of working
in the field.
"There's such a chasm between book learning and going
out and experiencing the environment," he says. "Getting
chewed by bugs and seeing a deer in the early morning can be life-changing
Fieldwork made all the difference for Mount Allison student Ben
Phillips, whose RCGS-funded research uncovered the world’s
oldest red spruce.
"I struggled my first year at Mount Allison," said
Phillips during a presentation to Society fellows at the AGM. "But
the RCGS recognized that I could take my skills and go out in the
— Patricia D’Souza