Friday, September 26, 2014

OneTree gets expert advice from birch artist

When researchers need help, who better to ask than experts?

As OneTree Alaska staff worked to record data on birch trees in their progeny evaluation trial at the University of Alaska Fairbanks T-field, they had a little trouble distinguishing bark color.

From left Professor David Valentine, OneTree Director Janice Dawe, artist Kesler Woodward and instructional designer Zachary Meyers examine birch trees in the OneTree Alaska progeny evaluation trial plots, UAF campus.
One Tree Director Janice Dawe consulted with renowned artist Kesler Woodward. Curious, Woodward took Dawe up on her request and along with Professor David Valentine, he showed up on a sunny September afternoon to examine the trees.

Woodward said he chose birch trees as the inspiration for his art because of their extraordinary variety. "You can have the same seeds, same conditions, same soil and the trees are more varied in character from individual tree to individual tree than any other tree in the world," he said.

Dawe explained that scientists don't really know why that is. "There are so many factors," she said. "There are more variables than can be neatly summarized."

After consulting with Woodward and Valentine, Dawe came up with a new way to record color of bark when gathering data. "We measure the tree in thirds to count branches and compare between parts of the tree so now we are going to add bark color. Making comparisons between the three parts will be useful. This got us thinking."

Another thing Woodward suggested was having students who participate in OneTree's field excursions to stare at a leaf intensely for one minute then look at a piece of white paper. He said the three things that matter with color are hue, value (brightness) and chroma (purity).

Valentine suggested using the Munsell soil color chart that soil scientists use. Dawe was excited to use this tool to label birch bark color.

"We got a lot of good ideas this afternoon," she said.

1 comment:

Kesler Woodward said...

Thanks, Nancy! What a treat to get to see and to talk about this great project with Jan and Zach, and to meet Dave Valentine and explore it with him! It's such a fabulous opportunity for kids, and for all of us, to observe, learn, and ask questions that don't have ready answers! - Kes