Charlestown Middle Carbonators
We were really excited to start our carbon plot, even in the sticky heat of an early summer day. Usually, during summer break, kids slept until noon, but not us. Seventeen students arrived early before 8:00, applied bug spray, then with anticipation of what would happen, walked down the trail. At first, we thought it was just going to be finding how much carbon was in each tree, and that is what we were doing, but it was also so much more. It taught us learning skills that will help in the real world and an experience we will remember for the rest of our lives. Our project will also help other people in years to come. The whole reason we’re doing a carbon plot is to better understand how the trees in our ecosystem work, which is very important to scientists all over the world! Yes it was hard, but despite all of our challenges in the woods of Clay Brook, we banded together and ended up being done sooner than we expected.
We split the plot up into four quadrants, then got to work. We had four groups in all. The first group were the tree taggers. They looked from the center and saw which tree had to be tagged in clockwise order, and had to make sure the tree taggers were consistent. The tree taggers had to deal with the sticky heat a lot because they were constantly moving around in the quadrants. The second group was the data collectors. They measured the circumference breast height (CBH) on all of the trees in quadrant one which was a total of 26 trees. Then they took the distance of the trees from the center of the plot. Also, as we were doing that, we had a group finding the azimuth of each tree. The azimuth is how many degrees the object, in this case the tree, is away from north (0°).
At first the job was very chaotic. As one of my peers expressed, “If we have to re-tag one more tree I’m going to launch myself into the brook.” We had another group working on checking all the information of each tree over again. Once that was completed they combined their data. If there was a problem with the data we would divide the group in half and re-measure and confirm that we had the right numbers. We then put them into the final copy, double and triple checking our work. Next we identified the trees with the help of Joseph Sullivan and Monica Horowitz from the SCA. Those two SCA members have a great talent for identifying trees. They didn’t just tell us what trees were which; they taught us along the way to identify trees by their texture, bark patterns, color, and leaf shape. Without the help of these two individuals we most likely would not have had accurate information regarding tree species.
We continued working on the second quadrant. We had a lot of trees that we were not expecting to be there. Trees such as Yellow birches and Hornbeams. We kept those same groups as we did in the first quadrant. We had one Yellow birch tree that was a real stick in the mud due to how this tree was tagged. We decided that because this Yellow birch split so far down, it counts as two trees even though they connect at the base. This was a problem because the tree taggers tagged it as one tree. After our little heart attack we realized that we had left over tags and tagged the second trunk of this Yellow birch. We collected the rest of the data and did the same thing for quadrants three and four.
At the Charlestown Middle School the last group had the job of putting all of the data into the GLOBE Database. There was a team of five volunteers in all. This was probably the hardest part because a lot of times we had all of it done, then we would find a tiny error so we tried to fix it, and ended up deleting all of the data. That was a big deal because in all we had 106 trees. 106! That was a lot of trees to keep up with, and a lot of data to perfect. But, we kept on trying and eventually got most of the trees into the GLOBE Database, but we still hit a problem. We could only attach 75 trees to the website even though we have 106. We made the Globe organization aware of the problem and they said that they will see what they can do to help and that there is a cap set in the software.
Overall, it was really nice being outside and working with other students. We really had very little help from the teacher, and that was on purpose. We figured it out mostly by ourselves! We actually know how to do this process and we helped each other instead of going to the teacher. Also, at the end, we got all our work done, so we got to explore. We found the tree that we thought was the oldest, and it had a CBH of 406cm. The whole experience was really fun but mixed with school, so it really was the best of both worlds.
This summer science project was stressful at times, but in the end we learned how to be a part of the community. It was a stunning experience that my peers and I will always remember. We’re excited to share the work we did at Clay Brook and help people understand how much carbon is in our trees right here in our small community of Charlestown NH .
The CMS Carbonators would like to thank the following adults for helping all summer while we worked: Mr. Rheaume, Mrs. Porter, Mrs. Perkins, and Mr. Flemming. Thank you to Joseph Sullivan and Monica Horowitz for helping us identify the trees. Last but not least, thank you to the Charlestown Conservation Commission for letting us use the land for this wonderful experiment and science work.