Witness Tree Project
PhenoCam Dataset, CC BY Attribution License

United States of America

Witness Tree Project

2022 2022 Winner Project | Engage Science Engagement (Falling Walls Engage)

The Witness Tree Project aims to break the wall to talk to nature. We try to reconnect people, in particular high-school students, with trees and forests through the use of automated data collected and translation.

The project’s automated social media accounts, that post human-readable messages based on data about the tree and its environment, have attracted a combined following of more than 10.000 followers. Our followers regularly engage with the automated content asking questions about nature, life as a tree, or a selfie.

Together with the accounts and data, we developed lesson plans on important subjects such as tree growth, ecosystem services, and climate change for high-school teacher. These lesson plans use the witness tree as a spring board to talk about nature and technology. Youth groups are also involved in tailor the messaging of a tree; giving it a unique voice. For example, Grandma Maple (@ThisMapleSays) at Drumlin Farms came online in September this year and her messaging is being developed in collaboration with youth groups, who learned about trees, and how we can measure and monitor them in the process.

By showing teachers and youth how this technology can be used o understand and get fascinated by nature, we are attempting to reconnect them to nature while innovating STEM learning and teaching.

Tim is a scientist with an keen interest in technology and how land plants and ecosystems work. He is also passionate about connecting people and nature. Therefore, Tim used his background in plant sciences and programming to created the Witness Tree project, which aim at making the invisible life of trees visible. For this purpose, Tim programmed simple algorithms to translate data, such as how much water moves through the stem of a tree or how fast a tree grows (the invisible) into easily understandable posts on social media that are shared with the world (the visible). When Tim is not studying how ecosystems work and how we can best manage them, he might very well be making maple syrup, hunting mushrooms, tinkering with a new technology, or simply running through the woods.

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