Southeastern News

University professor studies tree buds

Dr. Stanley Rice shows students and campus visitors how to identify trees.

DURANT, Okla. – Dr. Stanley Rice, Professor of Biological Sciences at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, has been studying tree buds since 2006. Every spring, he makes his rounds — about twice a week — to check on some 400 trees of 17 species, recording the date on which the buds first open. Rice has now completed his seventh year of data collection.

Scientists in many different areas of study are investigating global warming and its effects on the natural and human worlds. Rice is one of the scientists who study the effects of climate change on tree buds. Warmer winters and earlier springs usually cause tree buds to open sooner, but this is not always the case. The drought in summer 2011 damaged the buds of many trees and has caused them to delay their budburst times.

Rice is working with other scientists, including Dr. Richard Primack at Boston University and Dr. Mark Schwarz of the University of Wisconsin, to fit his data in with a worldwide data set, which includes trees in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and several locations in Europe.

The study of seasonal events, everything from the opening of buds to the emergence of insects and the return of migratory birds, is called phenology. Scientists from around the world will meet in Madison, Wisconsin, this fall to share the results of their phenological research.

Rice’s data are also a record of tree mortality in south central Oklahoma. Each year about one percent of the trees in the sample die due to drought or disease.

The trees that Rice observes are mostly along the following local avenues/streets: Fourteenth, Roosevelt, Grand, Grant, Denison, Hill, Ninth, Tenth , on the Southeastern campus, and in Carl Albert Park.

Rice recently conducted a tree tour on the Southeastern campus in conjunction with his general botany laboratory. He showed students and visitors how to recognize characteristics that allow them to distinguish among common tree species. He also showed them how to use a key to identify trees.