On the Expedition
Cities are made up of buildings and streets – but between and among human structures are thousands of trees that make up the urban forest. Urban forests are more than pretty: they mitigate climate change, improve psychological health, filter pollution, and increase oxygen levels. Earthwatch is collaborating with the Arborist for the City of Cambridge, just across the river from Boston, to collect data to study and protect the 18,000 trees that make up the city’s critically-important urban forest.
Earthwatch is collaborating with the Arborist of the City of Cambridge to conduct hands-on research into the health and impacts of urban trees. As a volunteer, you will be trained in observation techniques for identifying species, measuring and observing individual tree samples, and uploading data via mobile apps. During the course of the day you’ll work in groups, “exploring” Cambridge’s urban forest and collecting data about individual trees’ health, growth patterns, and impact on buildings and streets. With your participation, we will develop a growing database of information needed to understand how trees positively impact urban areas, and what trees need to survive and thrive in stressful environments.
The impact of urban forests on biodiversity and the environment is significant – and it is increasing rapidly around the world. Today, for example, more than 80% of the US population lives in urban areas, and this number continues to rise. As cities grow, urban green space declines, leading to negative impacts on environmental quality and human wellbeing. Urban forests offer a wide range of benefits to the general environment and to human urban dwellers; they provide:
- Habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife, which helps to support planetary biodiversity
- Protection from the extreme impacts of climate change, including temperature modification and oxygen production
- Filtering for rainwater and groundwater, both through surrounding soils and through transpiration
- Carbon storage, which reduces the quantity of harmful greenhouse gasses
- Psychological respite from the stresses of urban living
- Enhancement of property values
While urban trees offer great benefits, they can also cause problems. Roots undermine sidewalks, leaves create slippery hazards, and branches fall on power lines. Their impact on the public makes trees an integral and active part of urban planning for most if not all cities and municipalities. Little research has been conducted on urban forests compared to typical forests, making Earthwatch’s new Urban Forest Program an exciting and significant development.
Meals and Accommodations
Participants will be provided a healthy sandwich lunch and snacks while in the field. Exploring Boston’s Urban Forest is a one-day expedition, so no accommodation is required.
About the Research Area
Your Expedition will take place in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an historic town which has been declared a “Tree City USA” by the Arbor Day Foundation. Cambridge, located across the Charles River from the City of Boston, is home to two world famous universities – Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – as well as numerous museums, historic sites, restaurants, theaters, and nightlife spots. While in Cambridge, you may want to take time to visit Harvard Square or take in a lecture, musical event, or street show.
Boston, just across the river, is considered by many to be the “capital of New England.” Some of its highlights include the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, brick-lined route that leads you to 16 historically significant sites including the Old North Church. Exploring the north end of Boston is like visiting Italy: it’s home to authentic trattorias, bakeries, and winding cobblestone streets. Boston also boasts major sports venues, top notch theater and music, and venues such as Faneuil Hall, the outdoor Haymarket, and world class art, science, and cultural museums.