UConn Professors Will Ouimet and Michael Hren, several UConn graduate students, and six students from other institutions around New England, spent the last month on UConn’s campus and out in the field investigating Holocene and Anthropocene sediments and landforms to understand the regional history of floods, climate change and human impact, as part of the New England Keck Project, funded from an NSF Grant received by Ouimet and Hren.
The primary goal of the New England Keck project was to provide a unique and innovative research experience that integrated the diverse expertise of the project leaders to develop sedimentary and geochemical records of climate, landscape change, and human impact using field measurements and collected cores/samples. Use of UConn’s facilities allowed students to participate and actively engage with thriving research communities and be involved in a mix of field and laboratory research. Students were housed at UConn, and made day and overnight trips throughout Connecticut and other parts of the New England region.
Some of the broad research questions that were investigated include:
- What is the record of Holocene floods in southern New England, providing a Holocene context for events such as Hurricane Irene in 2011?
- How do records of Holocene climate change vary across the region?
- Is there a record of frequent fire in northeastern forests over the Holocene?
- What is the erosional and depositional legacy of historic land use and sediment mobilization?
- How does landscape response to widespread deforestation in de-glaciated regions such as southern New England compare to well-studied examples in un-glaciated landscapes in the mid-Atlantic US?
- What is the role of slope and surface geology in affecting land use and degree of landscape response?
- What is the legacy of historic land use on soil morphology, carbon storage and geochemistry in now reforested terrain?
They answered these questions by employing the following GIS, field and laboratory methods:
- LiDAR based mapping, spatial analysis, field calibration and site selection
- Field mapping of landforms, and surveying
- Collection of sediment cores in wetlands, kettle ponds adjacent to river courses, and mill dams
- Trenching, soils description and collection of soil samples
- Sedimentological analysis of all sediment samples (grain size analysis, LOI)
- Organic geochemistry of select sediment cores (C and H isotopes of plant waxes in soils and sediments; C/N isotopes in organic matter; H isotopes; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – PAHs)
- Tree surveying (for biomass calculations) and tree coring (dendrochronology and tree ring isotope analysis)
- ICP analysis of major and trace cations and metals (e.g., Hg) in sediments
- Sample collection and prep associated with 137Cs, 210Pb and 14C dating