HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Wallace State biology instructor Connie Briehn and her Biology 104 students participated in a Fossil Atmospheres project recently, sampling ginkgo leaves for a study spearheaded by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.
Through the project, ginkgo leaves are being analyzed across the states to study the past, present and future of climate change. Ginkgos are gymnosperms, meaning they have seeds, but don’t produce flowers. These leaves have survived through three mass extinctions, making them an ideal plant to study because they can provide a record from more than 200 million years ago through the present.
Briehn’s class recorded and submitted leaves on campus in addition to specimens the students brought from their hometowns, specifying the exact location of the leaves.
“It was fun to be a part of something where we can follow the researcher in charge of this at the Smithsonian. This was a one-time citizen scientist project, and we had great participation from the class. We submitted leaves from many different areas around us, including as far north as Athens. We also identified if the leaves came from a male or female tree,” Briehn said.
For the project, leaves were required to come from ginkgo trees at least 10 feet tall.
A row of ginkgo trees aligns in front of Wallace State’s School of Nursing and Center for Science Building, where Briehn’s class meets each week.
For more information about the project, visit www.si.edu/fossil-atmospheres/leaf-survey
For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.