300 year old tree becomes teaching tool

Massive oak tree cross section is donated to MSU.
Published: Sep. 24, 2022 at 12:14 AM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) -An oak tree thought to be over 200 years old goes down in west Mankato, but it takes on a new life as a teaching tool.

The massive tree had to be removed and a cross section of it was donated to Minnesota State University-Mankato where it will be used by students taking Earth Science courses.

“This was the Carkoski Commons kitchen and as you can see we filled up every inch we needed all the sinks we needed all the drains we needed all the fans,” said Don Friend, MSU Geology Professor.

We’re in the Earth Systems Laboratory at Minnesota State University Mankato. Geography professor Don Friend explains how a local tree sample will become a teaching tool.

“It’s the first time some locals have donated to us an entire 300 year old disk. So it’s one thing when you tell a student, hey trees grow a ring every year and here’s a picture of one and there’s another where you can walk in and see a 4 foot wide piece of a tree that you can look over and attempt to count the rings yourself. Now we’re going to have the perfect example we can bring over students and show them rather than just a photograph,” said Friend. “There’s already some buzz I’ve already e-mailed several colleagues who are excited to have it here in the lab they’re already talking about integrating it into uh earth lab assignments that the students will do. They will be able to learn how to do dendrochronology and what tree rings can show them,” Friend added.

This tree had to be taken down due to foundational damage it had caused to a nearby home. Matthew Doer of CTS Construction relates the challenges of taking down such a large tree.

“We would usually work in about a 4 hour day bring the tree down I would get out of there the guys would come in for another 4 hours clean it up probably the most difficult was probably the access on the downhill side there was powerlines it was leaning way over a house with huge weight in the middle of the house so you have to bring all that weight back across the top of the house. You’re kind of guessing on how much they weigh you want to cut them small cause the lull or crane can only handle so much. It was a tough tree there’s no doubt about it probably one of the tougher ones we’ve ever did. You know to take a week on one single tree is a long time for a single tree,” said Doer.

Back at the lab, Friend describes how he hopes to study climate change through tree rings.

“Now we have a large piece of biota, that is right here rather than having to dig through the soil to see what was running off, we got a big old tree that is showing us how climate change and how the moisture regime changed in the region when we converted to that and had square miles and square miles and square miles of corn fields and soybean fields there’s a lot more moisture in the air from evapotranspiration from those large commercial fields and that that I think we will probably be able to see that transition in these tree rings from Native Americans just what was growing on the land to large commercial agriculture changing the moisture regime changing the climate,” said Friend.