Treezilla: A Monster of a Citizen Science Project

This post is part of this week’s featured projects about other tree projects. Take a look!


Maps are everywhere these days. They have become as ubiquitous in our daily lives as they have in the science community. Citizen science projects that utilize maps are instantly familiar, easy to use, and enrich scientific data with a valuable spatial component.

Treezilla is a tree-mapping project based in Great Britain and hopes to enlist citizen scientists to map every single tree in the UK. Many of the trees in Britain’s forests have already been mapped (nearly 3.8 billion, in fact). However, the estimates of urban trees in cities, parks, and people’s yards have been poorly catalogued. These trees, although in much smaller number, still have a significant ecological value and are important to study.

Like other tree mapping projects, Treezilla offers an easy to use mapping website that allows citizen scientists to identify tree species and enter measurements, descriptions, and photos online. Treezilla even offers teaching materials, identification guides, and tips on how to measure large trees. If you don’t know the exact species of a tree, other community members can log on and help out based on your descriptions and photos. This allows for a very comprehensive set of data and gives participants a chance to interact with the scientists using the data.

In fact, the potential scientific contribution of this project is quite grand. The site offers built in tools for calculating the amount of CO2 captured and what total economic benefit is gained from the different types of species for a given area. Ultimately, the data will be used to help scientists identify important trends in certain tree species in response to climate change, disease, and land use patterns. You can help by heading to the SciStarter Trezilla project page.

Mapping is an increasing trend in citizen science. Many of these projects are easy – log on, add points to a map, enter your data, and that’s it!

Nick Fordes is a science enthusiast who enjoys doing, teaching, and communicating science. Nick recently graduated from the University of Idaho with an M.S. in Water Resources. His research involved creating a web-based participatory GIS application for use in watershed management. He has a true love for technology and appreciation for what the web-based communications can do for promoting science and increasing science literacy. Nick most recently worked with the Council for Environmental Education, developing K-12 environmental science based curriculum. In his spare time, Nick enjoys biking the bayous in Houston and fishing as often as he can. He has been known to use his scientific knowledge to make a pretty mean brisket.

Image: Treezilla

Categories: Ecology & Environment, Nature & Outdoors

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