Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Environmental Studies Field Trips: Field Studies

CGEE Student Voice
Environmental Studies Field Trip Series
by Jenni Abere

This week, we returned to Frogtown Farm with artist and botanist Sarah Nassif to look closer at one particular element of the farm/urban park: the fruit trees.

My group evaluated some apple, cherry and plum trees.
A young cherry tree in the berm.

These little trees are planted in the berms, and are a big part of the water retainment efforts at Frogtown Farm. Plus, they are apple, cherry, plum, and pear trees, so as they grow they will become a food source as well.

After learning some tree identification skills and measuring methods, we evaluated these young trees. We identified them based on their leaves and bark, then measured their height and diameter at breast height.

Then, we left the park and went out into the surrounding neighborhood. Each group was assigned a couple fruit trees to find, identify and evaluate in the same way. These trees were donated, so we knew where they were located, but we also marked down other fruit trees we came across.

The Question of Sharing Data

Our main take-away from the class was to consider how we can use field data in a meaningful way, and how we can share it. What's the point of mapping the location of fruit trees in the neighborhood? Could it be used to create some sort of crowd-sourced field guide?

Public fruit trees are gaining popularity as a way to feed a community. Last fall, my Environmental Studies class met with a fruit gleaning organization that collected fruit from around the city and donated it to food banks. That day, we helped pick apples on privately owned land. Fruit trees in public places could go even farther in feeding people.

As we tracked down fruit trees in the neighborhood, I thought it would be cool to use this data in an app: Find the nearest in-season fruit tree!

Gathering data is often the first step in environmental education, but sometimes using the data is left out -- and this is the most important part. In my work through the Sustainability Office at Hamline, we've been gathering data on campus waste streams. However, presenting this data to everyone else on campus in a meaningful way remains a challenge. Should we create a website? Build a giant bar-graph in Anderson? What part of our data is most important to share?

It's always helpful to take some time to consider the question of sharing data, whether it's for fruit trees or recycling rates.

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