Geosciences and Biology work to preserve the science quad maple

 

Williams' famous science quad sugar maple, left, as seen in 2007. Photo by Nicholas Whitman, Instructor

Williams’ famous science quad sugar maple, left, as seen in 2007. Photo by Nicholas Whitman, Instructor

After losing some very large limbs in an early winter storm, the towering sugar maple at the center of the science quad was deemed unsafe and was taken down in mid-January. Professors Hank Art (Biology) and Mea Cook (Geosciences) each asked that a slab from the base of the tree be saved for future use in research and teaching. Hank has estimated the age of the tree at 125 years. Working in conjunction, the two departments have begun the process of preserving the slabs.

The preservation process has been complicated by the sheer size of the slabs. They measure roughly four feet wide, five feet long, and five inches thick. We haven’t measured their weight, but each likely exceeds 700 lbs…and there are two of them. Many thanks go out to Dave Fitzgerald and the crews in our Facilities department for moving these beasts – this project could not have happened without your hard work.

Needless to say, once set in place for preservation, the slabs could not be moved. So, Geosciences technician Brad Wakoff formulated a plan in which plastic-lined wooden frames could be constructed around the relocated slabs. The frames would serve as tubs for soaking the slabs in wood preservative. Following the near-heroic efforts of our Facilites crew to move the slabs into the basement of the Rosenburg Center at Hopkins Memorial Forest last week, Brad and Hank constructed the wooden frames and set the slabs soaking in the wood preservative Pentacryl yesterday.

The preservation process takes many months. The slabs will soak in Pentacryl for a few weeks, displacing all of the water from the wood. After that, the slabs will be allowed to dry very slowly, to prevent the wood from cracking. Drying will likely take 6-9 months or more to complete. We’ll keep everyone posted as the project proceeds, but the pictures below tell the story thus far:

 

The science quad sugar maple is deconstructed, January 9, 2015. Photo by Cecilia Castellano '16

The science quad sugar maple is deconstructed, January 9, 2015. Photo by Cecilia Castellano ’16

 

Slabs from the sugar maple thaw prior to preservation. The lumber and plastic below the slabs will become a plastic tub for soaking the wood in preservative. Photo by Bradley Wakoff

Slabs from the sugar maple thaw prior to preservation. The slabs sat for about four weeks in sub-freezing temperatures before we could begin preservation. The lumber and plastic below the slabs will become a plastic tub for soaking the wood in preservative. Photo by Bradley Wakoff

Prof. Hank Art inpsects the larger of the two maple slabs before adding the Pentacryl wood preservative. Photo by Bradley Wakoff
Prof. Hank Art inpsects the larger of the two maple slabs before adding the Pentacryl wood preservative. Photo by Bradley Wakoff

Prof. Hank Art add the Pentacryl wood preservative to the wood-and-plastic tub containing the wooden slab. The wood will soak in the Pentacryl for several weeks.  Photo by Bradley Wakoff

Prof. Hank Art adds the Pentacryl wood preservative to the lumber-and-plastic tub containing the wooden slab. The wood will soak in the Pentacryl for several weeks. Photo by Bradley Wakoff

The two maple slabs are bathed in Pentacryl. Photo by Bradley Wakoff

The two maple slabs are bathed in Pentacryl. Photo by Bradley Wakoff

The slabs are covered loosely in plastic while soaking both to keep them clean and contain the Pentacryl. Photo by Bradley Wakoff

The slabs are covered loosely in plastic while soaking both to keep them clean and contain the Pentacryl. Photo by Bradley Wakoff