Photo Courtesy of Kevin Doran

This fall, students of Mr. Glenn Evans’ sophomore Honors Biology class at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, Maine conducted an analysis of forest growth using community science protocols established by Maine TREE. Mr. Evans and his students are long-time contributors to what is now known as the Forest Ecology Research Network (FERN).  Formerly the Forest Inventory Growth (FIG) project, this program supports schools or community groups in establishing research plots. Each site requires only a 1/10th acre plot of forest, and dozens already exist statewide.

In 2020, due to the pandemic, Mr. Evans’ class in Topsham was unable to visit the Cathance River Preserve, where they’ve collected data since 2006. Fortunately, a student first collected data at the Mt. Ararat research plot as part of their capstone project in 2016, giving them a foundation for this year’s research effort.

As with many programs emerging from Maine TREE, these students had support from our network of professionals:  retired Maine Forest Service and Maine Project Learning Tree trained educator Kevin Doran taught the students how to collect forest inventory data at the plot, and they borrowed supplies and resources from the Cathance River Education Alliance (CREA)

According to Mr. Evans, “Over that time a portion of the plot was cut for construction of the new school.  Nevertheless over half the plot remained and students were able to analyze growth in the plot over the four years.”

Their question: “Which size of tree has grown the most since the last time the data was recorded in 2016?”

Their hypothesis: “The larger trees with [diameter at breast height (DBH)] greater than 10 inches DBH will have grown the most since 2016.”

Want to find out what they learned? Read the full report by Mt. Ararat Sophomore Honors Biology Students Nick Picard, Parker Libby, and Luke Spooner here.

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