IALC Peace Fellowship Report 24 June - 23 July 1997

Nancy A. Milanesio 
Undergraduate Student
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Water Use by Tree and Shrub Forms of Dryland Oaks

Thanks to an International Arid Lands Consortium (IALC) Peace Fellowship, this summer I studied at the Volcani Center, Institute of Soils and Water, Agricultural Research Organization in Bet-Dagan, Israel. I learned about the Peace Fellowship from Dr. Evan H. DeLucia. At the time I was working in his lab on biomass allocation of Pinus ponderosa....This was an excellent opportunity to expand my research skills as well as open new possibilities for future studies....

While in Israel I worked under the guidance of Dr. Gabriel Schiller and at times with Leonid Kohol. Their lab has two main purposes:

  • To support the Jewish National Fund in finding better seed sources for reforestation by analyzing population genetics of different species and pinpointing specific provinces for the establishment of seed orchards.
  • To widen knowledge of water use of different tree species under different site conditions for better understanding of adaptation to drought and for development of better management practices.

With Dr. Schiller, I worked on a continuation of the IALC project, "Water Use by Tree and Shrub Forms of Dryland Oaks." On this project we looked at transpiration rates of Quercus calliprinos forests before and after thinning. With this work, Dr. Schiller hopes to increase knowledge of how water use is maintained by these trees and how they compensate for secondary trunks. We measured transpiration with the Heat-Pulse method. Lisandra Mioni, the first Peace Fellow, also worked with this technique. It involves placing 48-mm probes into the trees being studied. Each probe is six sensors (8 mm apart) which form six pseudo-rings. A heating device is then placed 15 mm below the probe. The sensors measure the velocity of the heat emitted by the heating device. Higher transpiration will be shown as an increase of water movement in the tree and therefore an increase in the velocity measured by the sensors.

An unexpected pleasure was to be able to work with Leonid Kohol, a collaborator of Dr. Schiller's who is examining the genetic make-up of Pinus canariensis to evaluate its potential usefulness for Israeli forests. These trees are of special interest because of their fire resistance. In fact, Canary pines need fire in order to produce seeds; this could help many Israeli forests survive the devastating effects of frequent fires. I really did not expect to be working in genetics for a forestation project but became enthusiastic nevertheless. I was able to use skills I had repeatedly practiced in biology classes, which was very exciting....

Dr. Schiller's work required that we visit many different regions in Israel....each time, Dr. Schiller would make a point of exposing me to cultural experiences. Whether it was recent archaeological finds or the vineyards at Binyamina, Dr. Schiller would stop and talk about the region, its people, and their lifestyles....Besides the trips taken with Dr. Schiller, I had many other opportunities to experience Israeli culture. I quickly learned that Israel is as diverse as the US, with people from all over the world wanting to become citizens. The new friends I made were very curious about my reason for being in Israel and wanted to know more about the Fellowship. The environment and its importance are of growing concern to the people of Israel, so many wanted to hear what I had to say....

In future I plan to go to graduate school and study environmental sciences. Working in Israel has been a turning point in my career decision, because now I would like to work in a field that has global application....I have caught the traveler's bug and continue to want to explore new cultures and bring back what I learn to my friends, family, and anyone else who is as curious about the world as I am.