As an Earthwatch volunteer, you’ll pioneer a research effort undertaken by Earthwatch’s Urban Forest Project. In Cambridge, we will be comparing our findings to those of a study done five years ago. The objective of the project is to draw statistical comparisons over time that will allow city officials to relate change in the urban forest (tree species and size) to changes in environmental conditions (road traffic density, height of surrounding buildings, and surface composition). The information you collect will support improved management of urban trees, and provide data to underscore the positive impact the urban forest has on the environment and local community.
Your Expedition will begin in the morning when you arrive at the City of Cambridge Department of Public Works office. There, you’ll learn more about the value of urban forests, the purpose of the research, overview of methods, and health and safety. You’ll hear not only from Earthwatch researcher, Gitte Venicx, but also from local experts including the Cambridge arborist who is partnering with Earthwatch on this project.
Then you will go outside for hands-on training in methods of observation, measurement, and data entry, using trees right outside the office as models.
After an hour and a half of introduction and training, you will break into groups of 3-4, and walk to pre-assigned street segments. You will be collecting data for the rest of the morning and the majority of the afternoon. In the field, you’ll note each tree’s location on a map of the city, and use photos and drawings to identify tree species. You’ll take measurements of tree trunk diameter, and make observations to help determine the condition of the trees. You’ll also note the location of overhead wires and the impact of tree roots. Each tree is located in a soil “well;” you’ll observe and note the well’s size, composition, and permeability. You’ll enter all information into a mobile app, which will support the process of statistical analysis and report generation.
Your findings will help to answer major questions surrounding the management of urban forests; for example:
- Which species are growing faster than others?
- Which species are dying faster? (Certain pests, such as emerald ashbore, target particular species; understanding their prevalence can aid in forest management.)
- How is the forest growing/changing?
For the last hour of your expedition you will meet the rest of the team in a central location to debrief and discuss your findings.
Meet the Scientists
Dr. Mark Chandler
Overseeing strategic development of more than 65 projects run by Earthwatch across the globe, Mark received his doctorate from McGill University studying the evolution of host-parasite communities in tropical frog communities. He is a prominent conservation biologist with over 20 years experience conducting field research in Central and South America, East Africa and New England. Mark's research interests include the human and natural dimensions of sustainable agriculture, the conservation aquatic biodiversity fisheries, community ecology and evolutionary dynamics. His professional interests are the development of sustainable agriculture programs that enhance both livelihoods and the environment, the active participation of local communities in field conservation programs, and the capacity development of scientists from under-served communities.