Dr. Elisabeth Levac: Citizen science and tree phenology

Dr. Elisabeth Levac: Citizen science and tree phenology

This period of social and physical distancing has been challenging for many. Although many services are shut down, many of us are working from home, and this includes our researchers! With the arrival of Spring, comes the reminder that nature will thrive despite the ongoing pandemic. One Bishop’s University researcher is hoping to continue her studies from home, and luckily, it may provide a cheerful activity for many of you!

Dr. Elisabeth Levac, Full Professor in the Department of Environment and Geography, is asking for help from the public to monitor trees in the Eastern Townships with her TreeTraque project. The data collected, combined with Dr. Levac’s pollen monitoring in Lennoxville, will help tracking daily allergenic pollen concentrations in Sherbrooke, while opening possibilities of future research on climate change with the creation of long-term data.

Phenology is the study of the periodic cycle that, in this case, trees experience every year. Participants will be monitoring the timing of flowering, leaf buds opening, adult leaves and the process of color change and leaf fall in autumn. Those events are linked with weather conditions, environment and photoperiod. For many species in the region, the timing of some of those events are unknown.

For citizens interested in nature who would like to contribute, it is possible to do so even during the COVID-19 isolation, because no human contact is needed. Participants will have to observe, a few times a week, mostly in May and at the end of the summer, one or two trees in their backyard or their neighborhood. The observations take only a few minutes and do not need any special skills. To help citizens, the research team is providing resources, both in English and in French, on how to identify trees on their website. In addition to advancements in scientific research, this project will help increase the public’s understanding of science, allow them to learn about trees and give them an at-home activity during social isolation.

For more information on the TreeTraque Project or to get involved, visit www.treetraque.ca.