You can help NASA do a very important job: understand how much carbon trees can store.
Thanks to the advent of technology, we can all help researchers and accelerate the scientific process. There is a myriad of apps and software where you can help, from hunting for star clusters to helping preserve rare species. NASA’s GLOBE Observer app alone has several different tools you can use, such as recording cloud observations, mosquito habitats, and the landscape around you. Now, a new tool called GLOBE Trees has been added.
GLOBE Trees works with data from the ICESat-2 satellite — basically a huge laser in space. ICESat-2 carries an instrument called ATLAS that shoots 60,000 pulses of light at the Earth’s surface every second, which, by knowing the satellite’s exact position and measuring how long it takes the pulse of light to travel to Earth and back, allows researchers to measure the elevation of different features of Earth’s surface. The data is very reliable when it comes to big features such as mountains and hills, but what about more finessed measurements? That’s a big question, says Tom Neumann, the project scientist for ICESat-2 at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. This is where the tree app comes in.
After a simple and explanatory tutorial, the app Globe Trees asks you to take a photo of a tree. It works like this: you stand 25 to 75 feet (7 to 21 meters) away, snap a photo of the tree, count your steps to the tree, then log your position. The app will give you an estimate of the tree’s height, which will serve as a calibration tool for the satellite.
Selecting trees who’s top is clearly visible from neighbors helps, as does having proper lighting.
“GLOBE observations are available for anyone to view and by submitting your observations, you can help students of all ages do real scientific research as part of the GLOBE Program,” NASA writes. “Everyone can participate, including GLOBE alumni, retired GLOBE teachers, families, and others in the local community. Download the app, go outside and follow the prompts in the app to observe your environment. And don’t forget to always submit your data to GLOBE!”
It’s a small effort, but so far, fewer than 1,000 measurements have been made. So if you want to spend some time outdoors, look at some trees, and help NASA finesse its satellites, be sure to check out the app.