Section 5.1: Mistik Askîwin Dendrochronology Lab


Students will:

  • Identify members of the MAD Lab and understand what their role is in the TREE program.

Key Terms

Mistik / Askîwin

See content or Module Glossary for definitions

What is the Mistik Askîwin Dendrochronology Lab?

The Mistik Askîwin Dendrochronology Lab (MAD Lab) is headed by Dr. Colin Laroque (Figure 1). To learn more about him, check out his website and this interview with Climate Atlas of Canada, where he speaks more on his unique perspective as a Métis scholar. The MAD Lab consists of various graduate and undergraduate students (Figure 2) who look to understand the world around them by examining the information provided from trees and their environment. The MAD Lab is located in the department of Soil Science in the Agriculture building at the University of Saskatchewan. This lab was initially set up to create extensive tree ring chronologies within the Atlantic region and has since moved on to include data in the prairies and western Canada.

The words mistik and askîwin come from the Cree language and mean tree, and time respectively. Therefore, the MAD Lab is concerned with looking back in time using trees and the valuable information they hold to understand how the trees’ environment has changed over time. By studying these two things, the MAD Lab is able to investigate things like the impact humans have had on the environment and on the climate. Trees are great environmental time capsules as the information needed to assess the environmental conditions are stored in the tree rings. You will find more information about the MAD Lab on their website:

Figure 1 shows the Director of MAD Lab, Dr. Colin Laroque.
Figure 1 shows the Director of MAD Lab, Dr. Colin Laroque.
Figure 2 shows the MAD Lab team members involved in the TREE Program. From left to right: Zach Person (MAD Lab Graduate Student), Teagan Lubiniecki (MAD Lab Research Assistant), Chloe Canning (MAD Lab Research Assistant).
Figure 2 shows the MAD Lab team members involved in the TREE Program. From left to right: Zach Person (MAD Lab Graduate Student), Teagan Lubiniecki (MAD Lab Research Assistant), Chloe Canning (MAD Lab Research Assistant).

YouTube Videos on MAD Lab & Team - TREE Video on the MAD Lab - TREE Video on the TREE team - French Version of the TREE Video on the TREE team

What Does the MAD Lab Do?

The MAD Lab conducts dendrochronological studies on trees and forests throughout North America through the analysis of wood, soil, and water samples. By pairing tree ring data with other scientific data, the MAD Lab can understand climate history of various locations, help settle historical arguments by dating artifacts, or look at how environmental contamination has changed over time. The MAD Lab takes on projects from a wide variety of science areas such as biology, archaeology, soil science, toxicology, and more. The MAD Lab’s work takes them across Canada, from the east coast to the west coast, and from southern Saskatchewan to all the way up to the Arctic North. In their studies, the MAD Lab uses various types of equipment to obtain samples and they must also gather information about the environment at the site from local people. Back in their laboratory at the University of Saskatchewan, techniques and tools are then used to date the tree cores, mainly through measuring the growth of the tree through tree ring widths. The Mad Lab can then determine current and potential environmental contamination, and predict future changes in the site’s climate by examining past trends. Module 6 will highlight more of the dendrochronology information gathered from the MAD Lab.

What is the Role of the MAD Lab in the TREE Program?

The MAD Lab team members will process and measure the tree cores to obtain dendrochronological data. This will provide information on dating the tree cores and determining the growth pattern of the trees. The dendrochronological data will provide insight into the environmental conditions of the tree, potential growth limiting factors and/or contamination present, and how these factors may change with time. With the timeline students construct, the MAD Lab is able to connect changes in the environment, as determined by the tree, to major changes in the local area, such as industrial developments, accidents, or natural disasters. Therefore, it is important that students provide as much detail as possible on the various factors that could impact tree health.

The MAD Lab has also created the videos for this program that can help guide students through TREE. These videos supplement the written resources of the TREE program and cover a variety of topics, from showing students how to collect their samples, to showing how the MAD Lab and CLS will process and measure the samples.

Mistik Askîwin Dendrochronology Laboratory (MAD Lab) Logo.
Introducing the MAD Lab Video:

Additional Resources for Section 5.1

  • The Mistik Askîwin Dendrochronology Laboratory:
    MAD Lab's home webpage where you will find lots of information on their crew, the types of projects they explore, examples of the various equipment they have, different reports and theses that have come out of the work they have done, and so much more!

  • Climate Atlas Interview with Dr. Colin Laroque:
    Climate Atlas is an interactive tool for researchers and the public to engage in climate change in Canada. They reached out to Dr. Colin Laroque, to hear more about how trees are storytellers and how Colin brings his unique perspective as a Métis scholar. Check out the video!

  • Dr. Colin Laroque’s Website:
    Read more into the starting of MAD Lab, Dr. Colin’s research, and check into the various publications he has been part of. If you are interested in learning more about dendrochronology, this is a good place to check into.

  • STEM Seminars with Colin and Zach:
    Both Colin and Zach gave presentations in CLS STEM Seminar Series. Hear Colin’s talk on “Stories Wrapped in the Rings” and Zach’s talk on “Syncing Into the Data: Looking at the Trends and Patterns in Various Types of Synchrotron Data”.
    Colin’s STEM Seminar:
    Zach’s STEM Seminar:

  • TREE YouTube Playlist:
    For the complete video playlist of all the TREE support videos (French versions as well), visit MAD Lab's TREE YouTube Playlist!