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New Grant Supports Public Tweeting Tree Network

August 1, 2020
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screenshot of the Witness Tree webcam showing the tree's canopy in spring, along with logos from Facebook and Twitter

A 2-year grant from the Harvard Climate Change Solutions Fund will support a new research, community outreach, and education initiative for the Harvard Forest Witness Tree social media project. Project leaders Tim Rademacher and Clarisse Hart will oversee the deployment and evaluation of three new tweeting trees at environmental education sites in greater Boston, including the Arnold Arboretum.

The kits collect data in real-time on trees' growth, sap flow, and local weather, and make those data publicly available on social media as accessible messages that users can interact with and ask questions. Following the model of the highly successful Harvard Forest Witness Tree originally developed by Rademacher and colleagues, the new kits will be co-developed and built by Taylor Jones, a post-doctoral fellow and engineer in the Hutyra Lab at Boston University.

The grant will focus heavily on evaluating this new model for climate change education and networked tree science, with hopes for future expansion. Project co-investigator Flossie Chua, director of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, will study the impact of the tweeting trees on climate change education in two middle and high school classrooms. Rademacher will explore the climate research potential of these eco-physiological networks of trees, and Hart will assess the network's science communication impact using qualitative and quantitative measures of public engagement.

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