The building that houses the Tree-Ring Lab today was the first machine shop during the years of Lamont's participation in the large ocean drilling and mapping projects of the 1950's and 60's. Then, machinists designed and built many of the world's first deep ocean sampling and measuring systems. Only recently has the building been remodeled to house the Tree-Ring Lab. Inside and out the building still retains much of its original appearance and unique character reflective of its early scientific history including the 2ton crane that once moved heavy motors and drilling tools around the shop.
Since the arrival of personal computers the TRL has adopted a policy of contemporary computing. Each year, as the computing power of commercial products improves, so must our abilities to use the new products. Today the software development skills of TRL scientists help define the cutting edge of the discipline. New programs and products that feature the latest developments from the computing world are constantly employed to support TRL research. Computer advances in just the last decade have revolutionized the way tree-ring research is done. Not long ago, a site of twenty trees, forty cores, would have taken a month to process and analyze for a single experiment. Thanks to advances in processor speed and software development, networks of 10’s of thousands of trees can be analyzed, evaluated, and reanalyzed in the course of an hour. Continual access to latest software and technology has contributed significantly to the course and contribution of TRL science.
The laboratory is equiped with the most contemporary facilities for tree-ring sample processing, measurement and analysis, including five computerized measuring systems and a complete image analysis system. The incremental measuring systems, based on our own design, all have a precision of +/- 0.001 mm. This level of precision is necessary for processing extremely narrow rings often encountered in highly-stressed, and slow-growing trees found at many locations worldwide.
However, ones ability to accurately measure is only as good as the surface being measured. Sanding is the principle method of sample preparation and for this job a new addition to the lab will house modern tools for the job. The TRL staff take great pride in producing finely sanded surfaces for sample measurement. Over the years we have perfected the techniques of sanding to facilitate the processing of large numbers of samples in short order. Without such skill and facilities it would not be possible to collect and analyze the large volume of research material that is collected annually be TRL scientists.
The lab has its own x-ray densitometry system for analyzing seasonal and annual density variations in growth rings of both coniferous and ring-porous species. Density is often highly correlated with climatic variables in the current growing season and its measure is important component for much of our research in high latitudes. Our densitometry system is comprised of a modified microtome for sample preparation, an x-ray exposure machine and darkroom for developing film and a Swiss-built Dendro 2003® workstation.