Victoria Cannon, a junior biology and English major from Greenville, had a gut feeling that she needed to challenge herself in a new way this summer. As a result, she approached Dr. Michael Rischbieter, professor of biology about doing summer research.
“Victoria is a great student, and the whole Summer Fellows effort is all her doing,” Rischbieter said. “She emailed me in the late fall and really wanted to take part in the research process this summer, so we are off and running.”
“I’ve never met a professor who challenges me to think like he does,” Cannon said. “He took me in as his protégé and taught me all about dendrochronology, a topic that I honestly didn’t even know existed.”
Cannon’s research, “Dendroclimatology of White Oak and Shortleaf Pine in the Piedmont of South Carolina,” has her obtaining cores from various trees and then measuring them with the Velmex System and plugging data into MeasureJ2X, a tree-ring measuring program.
Dendrochronology is the science of using tree ring growth patterns for dating archeological structures and other purposes and dendroclimatology is a subcategory of that science that looks specifically at how changing weather conditions, such as precipitation and temperature, affect the width of the wood rings that a tree produces each year.
“This has been a very important proxy for climate change scientists to use to determine how past changes in climate have affected tree growth, and how current and future climate change are predicted to affect tree growth,” Rischbieter said.
“Since we’ve begun, I have already gotten the chance to core, prepare, measure, and record data from a shortleaf pine on my own,” Cannon said. “This research is incredibly important to me because it is my first experience in a research environment and gives me a chance to work with other professionals to gain experience in the field, as well as practice presenting.”
The data from Cannon’s samples will eventually be added to a master document that will allow her to recognize any trends in growth patterns. She then plans to compare that to local trends in moisture and temperature in corresponding areas.
“If my data from the Piedmont area is similar to data taken from the Mississippi and other river basins, then I will be able to integrate my own research into the dendroclimatology data of white oak and shortleaf pine into the southeastern part of the U.S.,” Cannon said.
Cannon is involved in multiple clubs on campus including Head Start and the Pre-Med club. She also serves as vice president of the PC chapter of the American Chemical Society and has had the opportunity to work in the student-run writing center on campus and children at Thornwell through the tutoring program.
The PC Summer Fellows Program is designed to enhance the academic experience of PC students by providing them with opportunities to work with faculty during the summer. The program is intended for motivated students to gain research experience with direct faculty mentoring. Students experience the process of research as a creative intellectual activity in a living-learning environment.
Presbyterian College is located on a striking 240-acre campus in Clinton, between Columbia and Greenville, S.C. Offering challenging academics and a culture of honor, ethics, and service that prepares students to be leaders in communities, PC offers its students the benefit of engaging with an exceptional faculty who take individual interest in their students’ well-being, both personally and in the classroom. The Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy is dedicated to the ideals of leadership, honor to the profession, and service to the community. For more information about Presbyterian College, visit www.presby.edu.