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Tree.bio is a joint project between a number of academic institutions and non-profit organizations with the goals of conducting research in tree ecophysiology, growing institutional relationships, and empowering young scientists.
The Wireless Point Dendrometer
The wireless point dendrometer is a digital, battery powered device that captures the change in tree stem radius in near real-time. When properly positioned, it allows the researcher and student to record changes in stem radius, minute by minute, without interference from environmental factors such as thermal expansion.
This device uses a WIFI radio module to transmit changes in tree stem size to a web-based application. Using just a web browser, users are able to access data recorded by their dendrometer. Depending on research or lesson objectives, one or more devices can be placed within an area of interest, forming a network.
Data Flow and ESN
Dendrometer data is uploaded to the EcoSensorNetwork (ESN), a web site dedicated to this purpose. From within ESN, users can manage their dendrometers, access all recorded data and build reports using the web interface. In addition to dendrometer data, other data sets can be included in the reporting tool. This information can include soil moisture, temperature, precipitation and more.
The Dendrometer Kit
The wireless point dendrometer is easy to construct and can be used on just about any tree. The components are available from a number of suppliers such as adafruit.com, sparkfun.com and amazon.com. The tools required are a drill with 4 drill bits, soldering iron with solder and a heat gun. We also provide a kit that includes everything needed to construct your own wireless point dendrometer.
The wireless point dendrometer project works perfectly in STEM programs and provides solid foundations in three main areas.
Students get to roll up their sleeves and learn how to design and fabricate parts for construction. They learn about circuitry and a number of electronic components. In doing this, students gain important skills and learn how to use common tools such as the soldering iron and multimeter. Knowledge of basic radio technology is also a fundamental part of the experience, giving students a leg up on many other projects in the Maker movement.
From web-based applications, to smart phone apps to the Internet of Things, software programming has become an important skill. Students learn how to write and debug software and program their Arduino based dendrometer. In this area, students learn the fundamentals found in almost all programming languages (sequential execution, variables, control structures), computer logic and how to use popular software related tools.
The third area allows students to explore the data they capture using their dendrometer. It is a wonderful opportunity to work with their data sets using the basics of statistical analysis. In doing so, students are able to compare their findings with other institutions as well as those found in the existing body of literature surrounding tree growth and plant physiology.
In addition to empowering students, educators can create an environment where students have the opportunity to share what they learn, coordinate and work with others, learn how to contribute to the scientific community and bridge the gap between knowledge and action in geoscience.