At the end of Diversity of Living Organisms lab on Monday I overheard a student comment, "That was the hardest thing I have ever done!". I felt quite proud. Clearly I had provided a challenge that mentally drained students. It was an activity that was challenging but that could be done with some careful thought and patience. Students were engaged in a project conducting a tree inventory for the campus of Lasell College. Students were assigned parcels of land owned by Lasell and charged with mapping the location of each tree, the species, the size, and health.
The student was right to exclaim the activity was hard. I spent five years studying the trees at Harvard Forest and I found this campus activity very challenging. In a native forest there are a limited number of species of trees one may encounter. It makes identification an easier process. However on an old, suburban, landscaped campus the number of species found grows significantly. As we explored our campus we encountered planted ornamentals, invasives, and rare native species. We encountered at least three species of oaks (possibly four but I am still not sure). While our dichotomous keys were useful, many times the keys could not help us identify the trees.
We ended the lab with what I would call a start at a campus tree inventory. I definitely need help from a local expert. The identification books are useful but some time with an expert would make me more confident. I'm not ready to publish our findings.
We found some beautiful historic trees though. Some of the oak trees measured over 3 meters in circumference. We will bring our maps back into the lab and start to compile and analyze the data. One goal is to clearly map the location of our historic trees. These trees are incredible resources for our campus that deserve additional attention and protection.