Early yesterday morning I headed out to Tyler Arboretum, taking a brief stroll along the Scenic Loop with a chorus of birds and seeing various critters scurry across the pathway (some scurrying not-so-fast, as this friendly slug). But as I started my journey and walked by the pond, a shiny silver band caught my eye, and I’m hoping this blog post will encourage more of you to take a look at this band and realize its significance.
If you walk towards the pond, and if you stand with the pond on your left, look towards the right and you will see this bench, with this tree right next to it:
The silver band is a dendrometer, a metal band with a spring that allows us to measure an increase in the tree diameter – in effect, measuring tree growth. The tree band and the data it will provide from measurements are all part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Tree Banding Project. Scientists from the Smithsonian are starting the first global database to see how trees respond to our planet’s changing climate. With increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, are trees growing faster? Is the rate of growth linear? Is the growth the same across different regions? The answer will be in the data, and what the Smithsonian needs now is more data!
This is where Tyler Arboretum and other schools and public gardens come in. The Smithsonian sent Tyler Arboretum a kit to set up these tree bands on different trees scattered around the Arboretum. Below is a close-up of the tree by the pond with its band. The spring on the back side allows the band to expand and the tree continues to grow.
It is the space within the “notch” under the tree label where Tyler’s horticulture staff will be measuring the increasing gap with digital calipers over time. It is incredibly exciting to see that Tyler’s trees are not just for our own enjoyment but are also contributing to significant climate research. To learn more about the Smithsonian research and the tree bands, check out this YouTube video.
Most importantly, please do not touch the band! The tree needs to expand and grow on its own, and any human fingers/hands that touch the band can throw off the band placement and therefore impact the measurement.
The Smithsonian Tree Banding Project is just one example of the citizen science projects that are taking off at Tyler. I encourage everyone to go back and check out Director of Public Programs Amy Mawby’s column titled “Engaging in Science at Tyler” on page 4 in the Summer 2014 Tyler Topics Newsletter. Read about the other scientific data being collected at Tyler, and how YOU as a citizen scientist and help with these projects!