I was psyched to be able to go out into the Great Basin Desert — which is pretty much all of Nevada — for five days, sleeping in the dirt, helping out with some work on field instruments, sampling trees, and meeting a whole bunch of new people, from the director of Great Basin College in Ely to staff and board members from the Long Now Foundation. We even got to hit the annual Labor Day firemen’s picnic in Pioche.
The first stop was at Great Basin College, where Scotty Strachan, a Master’s student who works in the UNR DendroLab, began negotiations to install data-receiving equipment on the property, so that two-way communications could be established between the instruments and UNR.
Two of the sites are located on Mt. Washington (the whitish peak at far right, above) — one near the top and one about halfway down. This picture was taken from Cave Mountain, between Mt. Washington and GBC. Permission would also be needed to install repeater equipment on top of Cave — which is why we were up there in the first place.
We camped in Spring Valley, below Wheeler and Washington, and drove up the mountain the next day to the two weather stations. Scotty climbed the towers (left) and messed with instruments.
Not having that much to do at the stations, Mike and I mostly hung out and enjoyed the scenery.
These stations collect precipitation, wind speed and direction, temperature, and solar radiation data. Data are used to reconstruct past climates and attempt to predict future scenarios.
The Long Now Foundation
The properties on which the weather stations sit are inholdings, mostly old mines, near and within Great Basin National Park belong to the Long Now Foundation. It was established in 01996 (they use five-digit dates; the extra zero is to solve the deca-millennium bug which will come into effect in about 8,000 years) to provide counterpoint to today’s “faster/cheaper” mind set and promote “slower/better” thinking.
One of their coolest activities is the Clock Project, a monument scale, multi-millennial, all mechanical clock as an icon to long-term thinking. Clocks will be installed within Mt. Washington and at other sites.
Since climate studies fit nicely into long-term thinking, LNF are partnering with UNR to collect and distribute climate data, and so have allowed installation of data collection instruments on their properties. We toured the sites with staff and board members on a fine September day (right).
on to the limber pine
We headed west toward the Monitor Range to sample low-elevation limber pine that Scotty had heard about and that he thought might reveal some interesting climatic patterns, as limber pine typically grow at elevations of 9,000-10,000 feet. We were there to take some core and trunk samples and record site data to bring back to the lab for analysis.
The DendroLab gang at UNR studies climate and forest dynamics, Holocene processes, and environmental change. Study sites range from Alaska to Mexico, with the Great Basin region in North America as the primary focus.
The science of Dendrochronology allows reconstructions of past environments, processes, and events using records obtained from tree-rings.
We headed back to Reno with a bagful of cores and tree-trunk sections, happy to have been able to drive down the rough back roads and find the trees.
And now, here is a slideshow with scenes from eastern Nevada!