Special Collections and Archives blog

Southwest Experimental Garden Array (SEGA) Internship Begins!

There’s a new face in the department – Special Collections and Archives (SCA) is happy to announce that the Dorothy T. and James J. Hanks Endowment’s “Cline Library Hanks Scholar” has begun work on this year’s repeat photography project for the department. This year’s scholar–aka “intern”–is Ms. Sarah Ciarrachi. A junior pursuing a Biology degree at NAU, Sarah has a breadth of experience that makes her a great fit for this year’s project.

Sarah posing in the John Running exhibit. #JohnRunningCline

Sarah posing in the John Running exhibit/Platt Cline chair

Some background…

The Dorothy T. and James J. Hanks Cline Library Endowment supports Northern Arizona University students for research in repeat photography. A primary goal is to locate and document camera stations of photographs held by Special Collections and Archives, with emphasis on images from the Colorado Plateau. Cline Library Hanks Scholars enhance the library’s photographic collections by increasing knowledge and discovery in the natural or social sciences. Hanks Scholars are given a unique opportunity to develop an appreciation of the value of historic photographs and repeat photography. Relatedly, SCA is the official repository for the James J. Hanks Collection.

Previous Hanks Endowment funding supported the development of the 2013-14 SCA exhibit, Time… and Time Again: A Repeat Photography Exhibit of Northern Arizona Towns and Trails. Click here to visit the virtual component of that exhibit.

Campus collaboration

In the spring of 2014, SCA approached NAU’s Dr. Tom Whitham–Principal Investigator for the Southwest Experimental Garden Array (SEGA) project–and Paul Heinrich, Data Manager and Field Engineer for SEGA, to discuss a potential partnership around a historic photomatching for their climate change project. SEGA is a new genetics-based climate change research platform that allows scientists to quantify the ecological and evolutionary responses of species exposed to changing climate conditions. SEGA has begun to create a system of 10 gardens along a steep elevation gradient in northern Arizona that includes conditions ranging from desert to alpine forest. By planting the same plant species and genotypes in different environments, scientists can identify which ones perform best and are most likely to survive changing conditions. More information about the project can be found here.

In addition to studying vegetation at different elevations, Dr. Whitham and Heinrich felt that contextualizing their work with historic images from (or as close to) these ten garden sites would reveal much about subtle changes in the flora of these elevations over time. An intern would survey existing historic holdings in SCA that would result in a selection of images in close proximity to the SEGA sites, from which more contemporary, present-day photographs could be taken from those precise historic locations. Additional images from other repositories in Arizona would be sought in the absence of images from SCA’s collections. Following the principles of repeat photography, the intern would coordinate with SEGA project personnel and supply the team with both historic images and their respective repeat photographs using the latest in DSLR camera and GPS technology. All images taken would be maintained in SCA and preserved as part of a larger set of data for the entire project.

SCA was happy to help facilitate this part of the project and saw a direct link to its Hanks Endowment opportunity. Shortly thereafter SCA began the process to find its intern/Hanks Scholar. In January of this year, this person was in place and their work began.

About Sarah

Ms. Ciarrachi has extensive experience as a trip leader and outdoor guide in northern Arizona and has been to some very remote locations across the state, including many of the SEGA sites. She has previously worked with NAU Assistant Research Professor Russell Benford to collect quantitative and qualitative ecological data at six of the ten SEGA sites. She has guided photography workshops for Arizona Highways and National Geographic Adventures and has become skilled as a photographer in her own right.

SCA looks forward to sharing more about this exciting project as it ramps up!







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