Wednesday, July 19, 2017

New app gathers data on important or vulnerable trees, especially in privately owned forests

Researchers try out TreeSnap. (University of Kentucky photo)
A new smartphone app encourages the public to help scientists with research to help protect and restore trees.

TreeSnap was developed by the University of Tennessee Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology and the University of Kentucky Forest Health Research Center as part of a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program. Washington State University and the University of Connecticut are also collaborating.

TreeSnap focuses only on species that are economically important or have been affected by insects or disease, Carol Spence reports for UK AgNews: "Every day, American forests fight for their health against invasive species and pests. The app will provide scientists with more eyes in the field, giving them a greater reach to locate resilient trees that will advance their studies, whether they are working on breeding efforts or genomics to help in forest restoration."

The app's developers are working with several tree research and breeding programs to use gathered data in different projects, Spence reports: The U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station "will use data on ash and elm to help them in their fight against the emerald ash borer and Dutch elm disease. The Forest Restoration Alliance and the Hemlock Restoration Initiative will use information on hemlock to find trees that are resistant to the hemlock woolly adelgid. The American Chestnut Foundation is gathering data on trees that are resistant to chestnut blight, in the hopes of adding them to breeding and research programs."

The app gives researchers a way to get data through reporting private land owners reporting data, important in the East, where most forests are privately owned. It prompts users to collect data including habitat, height and health, trunk diameter and quantity of seeds or cones. GPS will automatically log the user's location, but precautions have been taken to protect users' privacy. More information is available here.

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