Research Narrative

Towering pine trees, open pastures, wild animals, and grazing cattle are all words which I would use to describe the place where I grew up.  Located about an hour South East of Denver, the small town of Elizabeth is home to a whopping 5,600 people.  Since the nearest mall was about half hour away and the only thing within walking distance was a rundown gas station, there wasn’t much trouble to get into as a young boy.  I spent most of my time wandering around my family’s five acres in search of a new adventure.   Our property alone contained over a hundred deciduous pine trees that provided my brother and I with ample hide and seek space, among other things.  The summer before leaving for college, I found myself outside wandering through the pines and I thought to myself “I am going to miss you”.   Growing up around so many trees and being exposed to them every day really made me appreciate the gift of nature.  My love for nature and the pine trees on my property are truly the driving factor in why I chose to advocate the uses pine beetle infested trees.  Pine beetles are small beetles that are Native to the forests of North America and are responsible for the deaths of millions of pine trees each year.

Not having any particular aim, I simply began my research by typing “mountain pine beetle” in to Google and searching what came up.  I find that Wikipedia is often a good place to start since it allows you to gain a general back round of the topic.  After reading through most of the information on Wikipedia, I looked at the bottom at the sources the composer had used.   I then searched the same information on Dog Pile, Academic Search Premier, Lexus Nexus and Yahoo.   At this point in my research I still really had no aim; however I knew I wanted to do something to help reduce the amount of trees killed each year.  Some research questions that crossed my mind were: What preventative measures could humans take to control the infestation?; Could trees be treated after being infested by the beetle?  After finding only a few preventative measures, I decided that this was not the focus I wanted to take.  Since the beetle burrows a path into the wood, there really are no options for treating the tree once infested.   After this dead end, I was discouraged and frustrated at what to research, so I decided to take it from the top and go back to Wikipedia.

Although every professor I have ever had has urged me not to use Wikipedia as a source, it came in handy for giving me an idea for my focus within the context of pine beetles.   As I searched through Wikipedia a second time I stumbled across the subtitle “Biofuel/Alternative Energy Production from Beetle Killed Trees.”  This subtitle helped me look at this issue in a whole new light.  I then went back to Google and typed in “uses of pine beetle infested trees.”   I found a plethora of information regarding different uses including structural uses, biofuel, and wood pellets for wood pellet stoves.   The first article that caught my eye was published on a website called and was called “Dead Forests to Fuel Vehicles”.    After reading the article I knew I had found a critical piece of information because it discussed the important process of pyrolysis.  This renewable and sustainable process heats dead biomass (infested trees) to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen which produces an oil byproduct useful in making biofuel.   Another critical thing found in this article was that for an alternative energy source to be considered a biofuel, its contents must be 80% renewable.    This particular source came from an online article.  I used two sources from online newspaper articles, three from academic journals, one from a magazine, and three from online articles.

After much review and research I have taken an educated stance on the issue.   Some but not all infested trees should be used for further uses such as biofuels, structural, etc.   The reason I say some but not all is because I came across research that described the importance of these dead trees in nature.   The article entitled “Why Leave Dead Trees on College Campus?” by Jono Miller and Julie Morris gave perspective uses of the dead trees in nature such as nesting for birds, potential lightning rods as well as food for some insects, like the pine beetle.   Some preventative measures should take place to keep the infestation under control while still letting the creatures live on their native land.  Where I stand today has been shaped by the research I did on the internet.   Until I saw the subtitle on Wikipeidia, I was trying to change what is.   After seeing the subtitle, my view changed to how we can make the best of the beetle situation.  Many of the articles I found on line were convincing but the one that changed my stance on the issue the most was featured by CBS4 News and was called “Pellet Plant Uses Wood Killed by Pine Beetles”.   This article was about a Colorado Native who made use of beetle infested trees by creating wood pellets to burn in wood pellet stoves.    The reason this influenced me the most was because just like myself, Mark Mathis owned trees on his property.   Unfortunately his died due to pine beetle infestation.  This made me consider what I would do if all of my trees died and decided I would be doing the same thing he did.


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