Research Narrative

The topic I chose was pine beetles. Ever since the issue has been brought to my attention I have had a continual curiosity towards the subject. Coming in I had a basic awareness of the epidemic the beetles were causing in Colorado’s alpine forest but I had not sorted out the actual position I was going to take.

I am not a Colorado native, and as a result this issue was not presented to me until about a year and a half ago when my boyfriend and I were driving through the mountains on our way to his house for a family party. I naively commented, “I didn’t know evergreens could be such a pretty maroon”.  He chuckled and said, “Yep, too bad they’re dead.” His following explanation shaped my view of the issue prior to this project. He explained everything they had tried to do to get rid of the beetles, but all ended in failure. Even the promising proposals panned out to be impractical. As a result my view was constructed under the notion that there is nothing we can to stop the epidemic. The problem simply was there, and the only thing left to consider was what can be done with the present situation.

When beginning research I set out to find possible pine beetle wood uses. The first set of sources were not that focused. Really the only criteria I had was, does this article talk about pine beetles? There were two useful sites. The first described how to rid the dead wood of pine beetle larvae so it can go to next step of production. This was useful because this proved that the wood could be used for something, if it were useless they could just burn it and call it a day. The second source was a simple product list and although it was nothing close to an academic journal it still assured me that not only can the wood be a useful resource but it had a wide selection of possibilities.

The second set of resources were enlightening.  I was still holding on to some misconceptions about the product. I was under the impression that the wood was so far structurally compromised that it no longer could be sufficient for architecture. This notion was formed biased on my idea that the wood’s unwanted roommates were essentially gutting the tree in and out. The idea of furniture was acceptable because it is pieced together, does not have to stand up to elements, and hold as much weight like a building or house. The key resource that broke down my idea was an online brochure. It’s main focus to dispels common myths associated with loge pole pine, another term for pine beetle wood as a product. The most important and surprising of these was that the wood is a wonderful architectural lumber source!

That finding was so surprising that my final set of sources looked into the structural soundness of the wood. I found a lot of useful information but the best was an online lab article dedicated to my inquiry. The goal of their research was to identify the structure and soundness of blue stained pine in order to provide a stable resource for builders. They conduct three main tests including: a Toughness test, Bending MOE and MOR tests, Truss-plate-connected tension test. The article serves as an all you need to know about blue stain engineering. Their research proved that the wood had structural integrity in spades and overall the differences they identified had only a slight margin of difference.

Then I went on to discover some very surprising and interesting facts about pine beetle wood building. I found that blue stain wood was the sole material used to build the Speed Skating Oval’s roof In 2010 Winter Olympics! There are tax cuts for building with it and in Canada there is a whole federal funded project to entice people to utilize the resource. In all, I had ten sources including: one business journal, one blog, a broacher, a news source, a web report, and five web sites.

My current view after all my findings and surprises changed and became redirected. I still hold that the pine beetle epidemic is not something that can be argued for or against, it just is. I still am focused on the wood as a usable resource but now my interest has more direction. The wood is as sturdy and comparable to similar wood types, so similar that the differences are almost not worth mentioning. My view now is that blue stain wood is a resource we should use, and once the misconceptions about it are clarified then those who want to build would be more comfortable having blue stained wood as an option. This stance differs from my starting position because now I know more about the wood as a product, and unlike when I started, accept blue stain as structurally sound lumber. This change took hold when finding the scientific tests to back it up and seeing examples of impressive architecture built with it. These findings narrowed my already narrow topic to pine beetle wood, its products, and more specifically its structural capabilities.

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