What Projects Are You Working On?

Ongoing research projects by ENTS and individual members

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edfrank
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What Projects Are You Working On?

Post by edfrank » Sat Sep 17, 2011 3:03 pm

Commentary
 
Ed Frank and I have been discussing the desirability of a button on the website that lists ENTS projects by participant, subject, duration, priority, etc. The spot would be a place we can all see what is planned and what is currently in the mill. It is easy to lose track of who is doing what and how much time and resources are being used. One can quickly find oneself overcommitted.

ENTS and ENTS-related projects can be classified in several ways and if we're going to follow through on this, we need to think about a coding scheme. One classification criterion is whether or not a project is a solo ENTS project or one involving multiple organizations in which NTS has a role. In the case of work done in MTSF, it is being accomplished both under the banner of FMTSF and NTS. Another way of classifying our projects is by whether or not a project is to be accomplished by a single individual or undertaken as a group effort. Computing Rucker site indices has been a group effort in NTS, although specific sites may be handled only by particular individuals. The dendromorphometry book will be a group effort, as will be the study comparing sine and tangent-based tree height measuring techniques. Doing a forest survey of Fitzgerald Conservation Area will involve ENTS among other individuals or groups, but ENTS involvement will in all likelihood be just myself.

A third way of classifying a project is by whether or not it sponsored by ENTS acting collectively or in which ENTS is being represented by an individual Ent acting separately under the NTS banner. For example, Larry Tucei Jr. took on the project of documenting Live Oaks in the 20-ft circumference and over class. Larry's project is evolving to include other Ents.

There are no doubt other ways to slice the pie. But as a minimum, I can think of the following documentation format.

Project Name
Project Description
Project Leader
Other ENTS Participants
Other organizations
Anticipated Start Date
Anticipated Duration or End Date
Visibility/Importance to Other Organizations/Groups
Priority
Comments

In cases where we collect data to support tree lists and site indices, there won't necessarily be a project leader nor an end date. One point I would emphasize is that while we may engage in discussions on the list about site or species preservation, NTS is not an activist organization. Should we decide to turn out attention towards environmental battles, we would lose our primary NTS focus, which is to fill a niche that few other organizations fill. Many of us on this list come from backgrounds of activism whether as independent citizens or from within an organization. However, in terms of the actual projects that we undertake (as opposed to list discussions, which are open to whatever topics any of us wish to raise, so long as we practice reasonable verbal restraint), I believe that NTS should remain a non-activist organization dedicated to celebrating forests and trees, pioneering tree measurement methods, and collecting data for scientific, historical, and yes, sporting purposes. At present, we have 181 members, and while we don't hear from but a few, I think that the vast majority join because they can get information and discussions through ENTS that is not easily available elsewhere. 

I'll give a dilly of an example:  Recently, our great Ent from Arkansas, Dr. Don Bragg alerted us to the "Silvics of North America" available to us online. For the most part, this is a class act publication by the Forest Service and is chopped full of useful information. I am thankful that we have the publication. However, in the area of accurate maximum tree dimensions, this distinguished publication leaves the the wide gap unabridged. Silvics is full of outdated and often incorrect information. There is a similar gap in dendrochronological data. I don't think the authors have paid much attention to the work of the tree-ring laboratories, such as Dave Stahle's at the University of Arkansas. The Silvics manual often quotes American Forests "National Register of Big Trees", which is a dead giveaway as to the state of knowledge on the part of the authors about maximum tree dimensions.

So, there we have it. If Silvics can't get it right, all that stands for truth in the numbers against the vast abyss of numerical ignorance is .... is ...... yes, yes ...... ENTS. Our mission of seeking and reporting numerical truth must continue and there is no end to the opportunities.

Bob Leverett

Feb 23, 2008
http://groups.google.com/group/entstree ... b7b4?hl=en
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

RyanLeClair
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Re: What Projects Are You Working On?

Post by RyanLeClair » Sat Sep 17, 2011 5:36 pm

Ed, Bob I agree wholeheartedly--NTS would be more rewarding for all if formalized projects were the norm. I know in such a case I for one would be far more useful, as up till now most of my posts have been wank. I really do want to make a bigger mark, but having literally ZIP in the way of tree-loving friends this has proved difficult. Maybe others suffer from the same situation. Anyways, this new talk is exciting and hopefully for all of our sake it goes somewhere.

--Ryan

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dbhguru
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Re: What Projects Are You Working On?

Post by dbhguru » Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:39 am

Ryan,

We understand where you are coming from. Tree hunting and measuring with serious intent is not destined to be a popular pastime. You have to be willing to do it alone for a long time. We, your Internet family, stand behind you.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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edfrank
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Re: What Projects Are You Working On?

Post by edfrank » Mon Sep 19, 2011 2:08 pm

Ryan,

I don't really agree with you about the role of formalized projects. I don't actually have a coherent argument at this point just some random observations. What we do here are NTS is small science. It is not on the scale of the large government or corporate research projects that include dozens to thousands of people on a particular project. Nor are we even on the scale of the more modest university projects being worked at by faculty members. We are small scale science, or even tiny science. The projects and work being done are often being done by a single individual or small group of people. That is to me the beauty of what we are doing. We are working on projects of our own design because it interests us. The investigations will lead to wherever they lead, rather than working on a designated project with specified goals and assigned tasks given to the individuals involved. Often in the project concept the stuff we are doing becomes more like a job, than something you are doing because you want to do it.

There must be a degree of self-starting and self-motivation to create the projects as they are currently conceptualized. Maybe that is not the strength of everyone, and perhaps some better defined projects with a more structured set of tasks might work better for some people. Maybe this is something we need to pursue for people who would feel more comfortable in this scenario. I don't know, but it is something to think about. I have been working on revising and updating the Project Page on the NTS website: http://www.nativetreesociety.org/projec ... ojects.htm

Currently many of the projects we are pursuing are self designed, self motivated, and tend to evolve into existence rather than being created. Essentially when enough posts are written about a particular theme, species, or area, these items become a project. One notable example of a project created this way is the Live Oak Project by Larry Tucei. Larry was interested in Live Oaks in the south and began to measure them. As he measured more and more trees, it became clearer that this deserved to be considered a NTS project, even though it was al most exclusively being done by a single individual. Being designated a project is kind of a recognition of the work a person of group of people are doing in an increasingly focused way. The Cook Forest Project,
the MTSF Project, the GSMNP project are examples of where an individual or group of individuals over time compiled enough data on a specific area to merit its designation as a project.

Some of the projects were more structured efforts. The Tsuga Search project was structured based upon a contract given to Will Blozan by the NPS to measure and treat hemlocks within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Similarly the Middleton Live Oak/Sag Branch Tuliptree Project was more structured as an expedition where people flew in from across the country to participate. So we are doing some formal projects.

Another major class of project are those where NTS is or has been working with a government agency or private entity on a specified project. These are designated projects to formalize the relationships between the parties. In addition less formal cooperative efforts are often designated as projects in order to emphasize the fact that we are working with these other parties. Many of the numerous projects Robert Leverett is involved with are of this nature. he has boundless energy and interests and tends to gravitate toward these types of arrangements.

Some of the projects were created, while most evolved. The Allegheny River Corridor project is one which was both created and evolved. Dale Luthringer had been measuring trees on several of the islands. In 2007 he invited myself, Carl Harting, and Anthony to participate on a four day exploration of some of these islands. I arrived with maps and air photos of the islands within the wilderness area. After the first night, we sat down and looked at the maps, and decided what we would do was explore a five or six mile segment of the river each day, and measure trees on those islands. We did that, and have been revisiting these and other islands ever since as part of this project. Later this fall we will put out a formal report of the progress so far that I have written, with the help of Dale as an editor.

A couple of the projects I have listed are those where we have some data on the area, and I wanted to encourage more work on a theme that seems to be developing. Creating the Adirondack Project is an example of this type of project. People have been vising the area and posting about it for years. It would be worthwhile to pull together these reports and try to coordinate a more detailed investigation of the area. The goals are still vague and unspecified and we will see what happens, what evolves as more people add to the data sets we are developing.

The idea I see being proposed here is to give people a chance to formalize their interests by creating a project, and for NTS to recognize their efforts in this regard. More formal recognition of these project will hopefully encourage participation by others in these efforts and provide encouragement for those who are working at them.

One thing I have chosen to do is to list some reports where we have made spectacular finds as projects, to emphasize these accomplishments. This is so other stumbling upon or searching our website will find on the website these exceptional discoveries and the reports describing them.

Ryan, ask yourself what do yo want to accomplish with your tree measurements and descriptions? Do you want to create a more formal project of your own and invite others to participate? If so, just do it. Do you want to join into an existing project? If so volunteer to help. There is nothing wrong at all with continuing to measure trees and sites as you find them. This broader exploration of the patches of outstanding, unusual, or old forest is perhaps an even more critical need than adding to an existing project that is already well developed. Adding new sites is a core goal of the NTS organization and should not be scoffed at even if it is not a formal project.

If a more structured project setting is what will help people get involved in some projects, that is what we will do. If others like the less formal structure like we have now, there is no reason we can't do both on a project by project basis.

I am in the process of updating the Projects pages and descriptions. I still have several index pages for specific projects to create - to pull out links to reports from more general listings. If any of you have project you want designated as such, or have an exceptional site you want to designate as a project site. Post it here or email me and I will add it if appropriate.

Ed Frank
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

RyanLeClair
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Re: What Projects Are You Working On?

Post by RyanLeClair » Mon Sep 19, 2011 7:12 pm

Ed,

Yes, it's true that our resources are limited, but maybe during the summer months we could collaborate more...?

I also didn't mean to take anything away from anyone's project, and I am truly sorry if such a message came across. My frustration was directed at myself--I have yet to post the height/girth/spread of any one tree. I've done a few girths here and there, but never the other two. I was also being a little facetious :P Anyways, I don't mean disrespect to anyone's project, and in fact I find all of the eNTS projects to be phenomenal.

There actually is a project I would like to propose. I'm thinking about doing some serious exploration of park near my house, Middlebrook Park. It's an irregularly-shaped tract of roughly fourteen acres. Some of the tulip trees there seem quite tall.

--Ryan

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Re: What Projects Are You Working On?

Post by edfrank » Mon Sep 19, 2011 7:26 pm

Ryan,

I did not feel you were disrespecting anyone project, just wanted to express that I thought a less formal approach to projects had merits different from those of formal projects. I also wanted to add a bit of an explanation on how the existing projects came to be.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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dbhguru
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Re: What Projects Are You Working On?

Post by dbhguru » Tue Sep 20, 2011 12:15 pm

Ed, Ryan,

Both of you make important points that we need to keep in mind. The world looks toward formalized projects run by people with lots of credentials producing thick, end of study reports. That is basically the way the professional world operates and is to a large degree understandable. What is not always appreciated in the professional communities is that still leaves room for niche science. Ed, you've articulated better than anyone before how our scattered efforts can often come together to produce a project with valuable results. Getting those results recognized and accepted by the scientific community can best be done by making our data available to the professional scientists among us who want accurate tree numbers. Fortunately, we have accomplished scientists like Lee Frelich, Neil Pederson, Don Bragg, etc. The cooperative venture with Neil on tuliptrees is an example. We'll likely have a similar one with Lee using our white pine data. Other efforts of ours serve other masters, e.g. my white pine data for MTSF. Will's efforts have contributed greatly to our understanding of the big trees of the Smokies, and as part of the Smoky Mountain archives, our data will increasingly tell the story of the Smoky Mountains big trees.

As a volunteer organization, the best way we can make our efforts ever more useful to science and resource managers is to continue what we're doing, just do it with concrete objectives in mind. Scattered postings on a site or topic eventually become too difficult to assemble. When that begins to happen, we need to do what you suggest Ed, and create a formal project with some goals in mind. However, that task shouldn't be all on your shoulders. Right now, the goal for my part of the Adirondacks project is to visit sites and collect data. We will eventually collect enough data to see some patterns, at least I hold that out as a possibility and hope. It is one gigantic place.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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edfrank
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An Essay in Support of Scattered Postings

Post by edfrank » Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:45 pm

An Essay in Support of Scattered Postings
By Edward Frank

As part of longer note Robert Leverett ( http://www.ents-bbs.org/viewtopic.php?t ... 984#p11984 ) wrote:
As a volunteer organization, the best way we can make our efforts ever more useful to science and resource managers is to continue what we're doing, just do it with concrete objectives in mind. Scattered postings on a site or topic eventually become too difficult to assemble.
The problem is the implication that we should tailor our data collection to better meet the needs of scientists who might publish papers using our data. The Native Tree Society is a scientific organization, and its members are citizen-scientists. Some are even professional scientists in a more formal sense of the word. The role of a scientist is not to collect data that will serve to prove someone else’s hypothesis, but to develop your own ideas and gather data to test them. A scientist is not someone who simply gathers data for someone else. I really do not want to be part of an organization that views its members as measurement monkeys who collect data for others to use. I do not believe the Native Tree Society is such an organization.

Perhaps this part of the long standing dichotomy between the rival fields of engineering and science. For many people there must be a discernible immediate use for data collected or it is not worth pursuing. This is the engineering view or utilitarian view of the world. A scientific view is that data should be collected to expand our knowledge of the world whether it has an immediate application or not. Knowledge is valuable for its own sake. There are various gradations between these two end point views.

In my view, if the data we are collecting is useful to other researchers, that is fine. If the data we collect is only useful for our own research purposes, that is fine too. We are creating our own “science” and should seek its publication on those terms – on our own terms. We need to be true to our own essence in what we are doing. I am not opposed to doing more focused collection efforts or studies, but these need to be those of our own making that represent our own concepts and designs.

Individually these site descriptions and posts of these small sites are the essence of small science. In my opinion a good description of a single site with measurements is as valid of a research topic and as worthy of a goal as a large scale project designed to get published. We need to applaud small scale, individually driven science and acknowledge its importance in the scheme of things. It has been devalued in our culture by industrial scale science and the drive for immediate financial benefit from research efforts, but still it is the core process that has led to most of our greatest scientific discoveries. It is better to be great at our own small scale science project, than it is to do a mediocre job of large scale science designed for publication.

Instead of collecting data to suit the needs of others, we need to create a quality data set that others want to use. The tree measurements and site descriptions we are doing are our own “Field of Dreams.” If the data is there, people will find a way to make use of it.

There are many examples of mining large datasets for a research. To name an examples in the social and linguistic is Ngram http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/ and http://www.ted.com/talks/what_we_learne ... books.html. Ngram allows someone to look at a variety of social trends through analysis of the frequency of the appearance of a particular word or phrase in books over the a time range that can extend from 1800 to 2008. It is a tool that mines the existing dataset of books digitized by Google. Something completely new and different was created to tap into the large existing data set compiled for a different purpose.

We need to compile descriptions and measurements of our sites in as much detail as practical so that it will be useful for purposes beyond what we currently envision. We need to collect broad based and broad ranging data on our trees and forests, rather than just details about a narrow limited subset of what we can learn in order to achieve publication.

I see the Native Tree Society as an umbrella organization that provides assistance and assures quality data collection on many small scale projects, rather than as a generator of large scale projects. This is something we can do. We are not as a whole funded by government agencies or grants that require a quick publication of research results. We should not be constrained to produce only data that is publishable. We can collect that information that broadens our knowledge of the forest and individual trees without financial pressure to do otherwise. We can do these things that others cannot. We should not be dazzled by the fast cars, big money, and bright lights of publication to abandon what we do best.

The most seminal publications on old growth forest in the east is Dr. Mary Davis’s book “Old Growth In The East, A Survey”(1996). It is cited in almost all of the publications since it has come out that discuss old growth forests across the eastern United States. It is essentially a listing of many, many sites across the area. Our unfocused and scattered posts about old growth sites, sites with exceptional trees, sites with unusual assemblages, or what I called significant patches of forest are an expansion and extension of this earlier book. It is something nobody else and no other group can do as well as NTS. As individual reports, perhaps they will not be publishable in a formal scientific journal, but as an broad scale, long term project these scattered site descriptions and postings may be among the most important contributions we can make to the scientific community.

There is room within the organization for both contributing to large projects by collecting specific data needed for publication and for continuing to collect a broader scale data set through small scale science on scattered sites. Research keyed to get publications is not the result of the evolution of small scale science to something better. Small scale science and science for publication are simply two different approaches. The key to achieving both ends is to make outside scientists aware of the data we are collecting, and spur their interest in using it in their research.

How do we make our presence known within the broader scientific community? I have a suggestion that was not well supported in the past. We need to publish our list of maximum tree heights, girths, and crown spreads collected as part of our efforts. Jess Riddle has compiled the list and should be recognized as first author. The introduction should outline our methodology of tree measurement. A second section should address the accuracy of our measurements, and the third tables of the measurements themselves. This needs to achieve publication in a peer reviewed journal – the more prestigious the better – but any recognized journal to get our name, data, and methodology out into the citable literature for others to see. I am sure there are downsides to publication at this time. The data itself is constantly in flux as we find new bigger specimens, but that will always be true. I feel this is what needs to be done at this time to promote our scientific mission.

Edward Frank



.
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

hamadryad
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Re: What Projects Are You Working On?

Post by hamadryad » Tue Oct 04, 2011 12:56 pm

I have a couple of projects going, they are long term studies and i am not shy about talking about them nor of anyone proving it before me! answers are the goal of communities, so what if some tonka takes credit, the truth is whats important, and ametuers tend to produce a LOT of new science!

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edfrank
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Re: What Projects Are You Working On?

Post by edfrank » Tue Oct 04, 2011 2:08 pm

Hamydryad,

What I am really looking for is to achieve a balance of bigger projects and personal projects. If someone is working on a project on his own, he can't really take advantage of the expertise, knowledge, information and help of the rest of the people in the community - unless they know about what he is doing. James Parton, for example is interested in the remaining American Chestnut trees and efforts to preserve and reintroduce the species. There isn't much formal structure in the project, but by designating it as one - everyone knows about what he is dong. Now when people find a large chestnut tree, or an interesting historical reference, or link, it is added to the project discussions.

The second goal is to attract people doing serious tree research to the organization so we can have access to their expertise, and so they can tap into the data we have collected and the knowledge and experience of members of this group. For this goal, we need to have some more formally structured projects and publications. More formalized projects will help attract researchers to our group. We also will have more credibility with governmental agencies and this can gain us access to places we otherwise would not be able to explore. It will help us get research permits in national parks and entrance into private estates normally closed to hobbyists.

I think the work we are doing is important - designating projects help us better achieve our research goals.

Ed Frank
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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