Citizen science: Making Science Real for Students in the Bankhead
Volunteers are the heart of conservation. Many such volunteers give up their time to collect scientific information, such as the number of birds in a woodland, or sightings of invasive species. These endeavors are known as ‘citizen science’.
Wild Alabama is facilitating and helping to plan two citizen science projects for students in the school systems near the Bankhead National Forest. We are partnering with the US Forest Service to make these happen. One we are calling the Acorn Project. The other is our Hemlock Project.
For the Acorn Project, the professional biologists for the USFS are developing video training modules for educators to share with their students about Oak trees and particularly White Oak trees...how to identify them and how to collect their acorns. Janice Barrett and Maggie Johnston will be assisting the educators with giving some hands-on opportunities for identifying oaks and collecting their acorns. The students will collect up to 30,000 acorns over the fall of 2021!
The Bankhead National Forest recently clear-cut a 22 acre stand of loblolly pines that were planted during the old forest management plan. Thank goodness, the new forest management plan involves less monoculture tree plantation and more native tree species such as oaks to be fostered. Wild Alabama was instrumental in this new plan of 2004 being implemented. The acorns collected by students will be propagated and the seedlings used to replant the 22 acre forest in oaks. Some of the students will even get the honor of helping to replant the seedlings when they are a year old. This is the first time that an experiment of this type has been undertaken on this scale!
The second citizen science project, the Hemlock Project, involves monitoring and protecting the existing stands of Hemlocks that are still healthy within the Bankhead National Forest. In most other parts of the nation where Hemlocks have traditionally grown, they are dying from woolly adelgid infestation. This tiny insect destroys the Hemlocks and is transforming beautiful forests into stands of tall dead skeletons of the once majestic trees. Bankhead's District Ranger, Andy Scott, is partnering with Wild Alabama to develop a plan to have high school and college students record and monitor the still healthy Bankhead Hemlocks.
Interested in learning more or getting your school involved? Contact Maggie Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or Janice Barrett at email@example.com. Mention Bankhead Citizen Science in your subject line please.