Feature Stories

Taking inventory

The GPS signal bounced from earth to space to earth in a matter of seconds. And when enough satellites lined up the coordinates, David Berle had pinpointed another tree to add to his inventory.

The horticulture professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences spent a May term teaching his students how to hunt trees and add them to a geographic information systems database. And although it was a class project, the study also helped local foresters.

"We mapped trees that already have significance," Berle said. "The county had all the trees inventoried, but didn't have a good map of them."

The yellow hand-held global positioning systems that his class uses are accurate within one meter. The funds to purchase the devices - which cost $5,000 each - came from a UGA Learning Technologies Grant.

"It helps sometimes when you're teaching to have something that looks like a Game Boy," he said in reference to the GPS. "One of our long-term goals is to go online with this information," much like a person can go online, map out road directions and, now, view the area's geography. "It's a lot of ‘wow, gee whiz' practical stuff."

It's practical because mapping trees is not just about building inventory. Realtors, planning committees and other organizations throughout the state compare this information, such as an area's tree canopy, to the property value of a home. Having that information readily available, and giving significant trees "a unique point on the map," would speed up the process. Mapping landmark trees also helps contractors know which trees to protect when they are developing land for residential or commercial purposes, Berle said.

The class of eight students didn't spend the three-week term mapping every single tree in the county. Instead, they hunted champion trees, historic trees and trees that have cultural significance.

A champion tree is the "largest tree of a particular species ... it helps citizens in the county to keep looking for the next big tree," Berle said. Trees with historical significance include those in a former slave cemetery that started in an open field and over the centuries turned into a dense forest. Culturally significant trees include the Moon Tree, a pine tree whose seed was taken on an Apollo mission.

The GPS signal bounced from earth to space to earth in a matter of seconds. And when enough satellites lined up the coordinates, David Berle had pinpointed another tree to add to his inventory.

The horticulture professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences spent a May term teaching his students how to hunt trees and add them to a geographic information systems database. And although it was a class project, the study also helped local foresters.

"We mapped trees that already have significance," Berle said. "The county had all the trees inventoried, but didn't have a good map of them."

The yellow hand-held global positioning systems that his class uses are accurate within one meter. The funds to purchase the devices - which cost $5,000 each - came from a UGA Learning Technologies Grant.

"It helps sometimes when you're teaching to have something that looks like a Game Boy," he said in reference to the GPS. "One of our long-term goals is to go online with this information," much like a person can go online, map out road directions and, now, view the area's geography. "It's a lot of ‘wow, gee whiz' practical stuff."

It's practical because mapping trees is not just about building inventory. Realtors, planning committees and other organizations throughout the state compare this information, such as an area's tree canopy, to the property value of a home. Having that information readily available, and giving significant trees "a unique point on the map," would speed up the process. Mapping landmark trees also helps contractors know which trees to protect when they are developing land for residential or commercial purposes, Berle said.

The class of eight students didn't spend the three-week term mapping every single tree in the county. Instead, they hunted champion trees, historic trees and trees that have cultural significance.

A champion tree is the "largest tree of a particular species ... it helps citizens in the county to keep looking for the next big tree," Berle said. Trees with historical significance include those in a former slave cemetery that started in an open field and over the centuries turned into a dense forest. Culturally significant trees include the Moon Tree, a pine tree whose seed was taken on an Apollo mission.

Published Monday,