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Wednesday June 13, 2001

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Not the usual summer vacation

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MICHELLE DURHAM/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Rex Adams, a senior research specialist in the Tree Ring lab, makes a skeleton plot of the rings from a tree Monday. Such plots of the narrow and wide rings from the tree help scientists to understand the ecology of the forest where the tree originated and the history of the tree itself, including fires and insect infestations.

By Cyndy Cole

Arizona Summer Wildcat

While students take a break from classes this summer, professors will be, too - in their own way

While UA student are taking a break from classes this summer, their professors will still be hard at work, whether its close to campus or on the other side of the world.

But it's not all work, some say.

"This is a vacation," said research specialist Rex Adams from University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research of his upcoming data-collection trip.

In July, Adams will spend two weeks collecting tree ring samples in the White Mountains of California. He will take core samples from the trunks of trees that are approximately 20 inches long and the size of a pencil in diameter. Once he returns to the lab, Adams will sand the samples and examine the tree rings, he said.

By examining the tree rings, Adams will be able to examine their age and fire history, which will help his crew build a fire history for the area.

"It's really a nice thing to do," Adams said. "It's pretty awe-inspiring to walk down a trail and realize that you're walking among trees that are over 4,000 years old, but are still alive," Adams said.

Self-proclaimed "mudologist" Owen Davis will also be getting his hands dirty this August. Davis is a UA professor of palynology, or the study of pollen in living and fossil specimens.

Davis will be in Camp Pendleton, just outside of San Diego, doing a history of the people who lived there and looking at samples of mud called "mudcores," he said.

"On the coast about 2,000 years ago, people became more abundant," Davis said. Davis is examining the mudcores to figure out why the population chose to live at this specific site.

He said he thinks it was because food was abundant.

"The estuaries where the shellfish lived were better developed then, (scientists) think," Davis said.

Preliminary results show the scientists are right.

Davis will also be involved in the Rio Nuevo excavation in downtown Tucson, where he plans to examine canals.

Further from campus, assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology Leticia Avilˇs has been in Berlin, Germany researching why individuals in some species are associated in social groups, she said.

Avilˇs went to the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin in early February to study this question and organize an international workshop on social evolution.

Avilˇs said just getting into the Institute in Berlin was one of the hardest aspects of her research.

"One does not apply to become a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin, but needs to be invited," Avilˇs said. "I feel very fortunate and honored to have been invited and to have had the opportunity to be here during these past few months," she added.

Another faculty member who traveled abroad this summer was architecture adjunct lecturer Anne Nequette.

Nequette, her husband and their children Matthew, 14 and Megan, 11, explored Italy for two weeks in May.

"Fifteen years ago, we went when I was pregnant with Matthew," she said.

Nequette said much has changed in Italy since then.

"Venice is really in terrible shape," Nequette said, citing pollution as the cause for deterioration of many of the buildings in Venice and Rome.

Nequette remembered many high points from her trip as well. She and her husband liked to "hang out" in piazzas and look at buildings.

"It's amazing that it still stands up," Nequette said about The Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is under construction.

Nequette was also amazed by the size of the Pantheon, which has an opening 27 feet across in the ceiling to let in light, and drains in the floor for rainwater, she said.

All in all, she said the "business trip" was well worth it.

"We ate lots of great food," Nequette said. "We had the required two to three servings of ice cream a day," she added.