Thursday, September 27, 2012

Banding Together...and Banding Trees...for the Smithsonian

Atrium of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Photo Courtesy:

All my readers know the importance  of citizen scientists supporting museums.  But what do they do for us?  For starters, they are a great source of fun projects we can all participate in.

One great example is the Smithsonian's Treebanding Project.  Primarily targeted towards kids and schools groups, the project aims to create the first global observatory of how trees respond to climate.  With hundreds, and soon thousands, of trees being measured it is possible to watch tree growth over many years and see where it may be changing.

After signing up for the project, each teacher (or class or organization or science center) receives a tree-banding kit with tree bands of all different sizes, fasteners to hold them in place, and directions for identifying and tagging trees being measured.  It also comes with a nice set of calipers for measuring limbs and trunks of very young trees.  They just identify 3-5 trees to follow over the course of a few years, follow the directions in the handy User's Guide, and set up an account so all  the measurements can be recorded.

Photo Courtesy:
The banding is relatively simple and makes a good class project.  There are lesson plans and classroom activities available to build upon the treebanding activity.  It teaches about the life cycle of trees, what helps them grow, and how climate can impact tree health.  Everything an energetic science teacher needs to help tomorrow's ecologists.

Once the bands are in place and measurements are taken, see what other schools are doing and check out their results on the Tree Data web page.  And for those of you wanting a cold hard look at all the data, check out the reports available here.  You have to be a registered user to get access (since its your trees) but that's a very simple process.

The best time for banding is spring...right before the new year's growth begins and a full year of fresh data can begin.  But interested teachers should contact the Smithsonian soon to reserve a kit if they want to get involved.  There are only so many to go around.  The equipment costs money and their sponsors can only provide so much.  Leaving a shortage for the many interested schools, teachers, and students wishing to participate.

This is where you can come in.  The Smithsonian has already taken the first steps of setting up the project, finding the equipment for you, and organizing a data system.  But they can't do it without your participation and your financial support.  So won't you help?  Just donate whatever small amount you can afford on the right-hand side (marked "Donate").  You'll help a few more schools access the program, and you'll feel good helping us advance the field of citizen science together.


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