Into the Forest: Olivia Chiossone ’23
The data Olivia Chiossone ’23 gathered during a “Research Experience for Undergraduates” program at Eastern Kentucky University propelled her senior work.
She was interested in whether dendrochronology, the study of tree rings, could be used to study moisture sensitivity in trees in ridgetop wetlands.
“We were hoping to validate or invalidate dendrochronology as a means of learning more about hydrology and the hydro connectivity between the wetlands and the trees,” Chiossone explained.
She and her team cored many white oak trees at various distances from the wetlands. The process does not harm the trees and allows the researchers to see both the trees’ ages and the growing conditions at the time.
“Originally, we hypothesized that the trees closest to the wetlands would be a lot less sensitive to changes in moisture, but we found the exact opposite,” Chiossone said. “The trees furthest from the wetlands were the least sensitive.”
As a part of her senior work, Chiossone has reexamined the data in relation to elevation. She wanted to know if changes in elevation from the wetland to individual trees might affect flow channels.
“It was really nice to get this opportunity to get out into the field and do real research and then bring it back to Bennington, work on it with other professors, and look at it from different angles,” Chiossone said.
She especially appreciates teachers Kerry Woods, whose classes first got her interested in ecology; Katie Montovan, who taught her to use the important statistical software she needed to analyze her data, and Tim Schroeder, who recommended she consider elevation as a new perspective on wetland conditions.
This past summer, Chiossone lived in North Bennington and worked at Woodford State Park as an interpreter.
In the fall, she moved to Germany and started graduate school at the University of Göttingen, where she studies forest and ecosystem sciences.
Learn more about studying science at Bennington.