Photo of Rita Bove analyzing research
Rita Bove analyzing thousand-year-old dendrochronology specimens collected from ghost forests above the Dinwoody Canyon.

Central Wyoming College archaeology student, Rita Bove, was honored with the “Best Student Research Paper” at the Wyoming Association of Professional Archaeologists/Wyoming Archaeological Association conference in Casper on May 4.  

Bove’s paper was selected as one of the top 10 from more than 150 papers presented at Undergraduate Research Day at the University of Wyoming in April.

“Her research is an important component of CWC’s Interdisciplinary Climate Change Expedition investigations on and around the Dinwoody Glacier,” said Todd Guenther, professor of anthropology at CWC.

Bove’s paper was entitled, “The Dinwoody Ghost Forests: Alpine Paleoecology in the Wind River Mountains.” She is studying climate change and related fluctuating environmental factors as evidenced in three “ghost forests,” areas of land that shows remnants of where a forest used to be.

“Ghost forest is a term that has come into accepted use to describe clusters of old logs and stumps associated with some high elevation archaeological sites,” Guenther said.

The ones we recorded are remnants of forests that grew one to three thousand years ago in an area that is now tundra and has no trees at all, indicative of changing climate/environmental conditions. ”

These consist of approximately 150 relict logs and tree stumps located above 11,000 feet in alpine areas overlooking the Dinwoody Canyon in the Wind River Mountains. The wood samples have been radiocarbon dated between 1,100 and 3,000 years before present. Her work on changing treeline, forest composition and climate fluctuations will help provide environmental contexts to better understand prehistoric human adaptations to Wyoming’s highest mountains.  

The Wilderness Act legislation setting aside the Fitzpatrick Wilderness in the Shoshone National Forest calls the area, “untrammeled by man.” However, CWC students are gathering evidence that the area was heavily used and, at times, densely populated beginning about 13,000 years ago with Clovis and Goshen cultures, Guenther said.  Other CWC students who participate in the ICCE expeditions are beginning graduate programs and writing masters theses about the discoveries.

Bove is an Expedition Science major in CWC’s Alpine Science Institute. Her areas of emphasis are environmental science and archaeology. She is a graduate of Lander Valley High School.