NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Planning and managing vegetation in urban areas can be a complex process, especially when it comes to identifying and locating trees around a 500-acre campus the size of Tennessee State University.
Now students at TSU are using the latest cellphone and GPS technology to inventory and catalogue the multiple species across the University’s urban forest.
Using Leafsnap, an application designed by Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution, students can simply take a photo of a leaf from one of the many trees around campus, and the recognition software will provide a high-resolution identification of the tree species.
“This is a great hands-on tool for many of our students who come from different backgrounds and majors to help identify the different species here on campus,” said Dr. De’Etra Young, extension assistant professor of Urban Forestry. “It really is the perfect application for providing an electronic guide to take out in the field for research purposes.”
(Video courtesy of The Tennessean)
The students are all in Young’s Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems class, that explains the computer-based tool used to create, store, manage, analyze and display data that correspond to unique locations in space. According to Young, the tool allows users to analyze and visualize information based on location.
“Many of our students are in various agriculture programs and have had no previous exposure to these types of programs and tools,” added Young. “The free applications, such as Leafsnap, give them the tools to be able to go out into the field and be comfortable conducting research.”
Kyreshia Brown, a junior planning to attend veterinary school and couldn’t tell the difference between a maple or oak tree, loved that she could use her cell phone to help her easily identify different species.
“This really is a good compliment to what we are learning in class,” said the agriculture science major. “We are using high-tech applications that fit right in the palm of our hands.”
Once the students identify the trees, they then use hand-held GPS systems to locate the trees. Eventually, the descriptions and locations will be fed into a database that will map every tree on campus.
The map will then provide a visual representation of the University’s urban forest and its overall inventory.
“This is all part of our green initiative here on campus,” added Young. “Our students are learning about the health and diversity of our urban forest by using these simple high-tech tools to gather the information. The students seem to be really excited about the project.”
TSU will receive the Tree Campus USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation Sunday, Oct. 6 for its part in promoting healthy trees and engaging staff and students in conservation efforts. Tennessee State will become one of only 190 universities and colleges across the country to receive the special designation. The program, funded by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota, has helped campuses throughout the country plant hundreds of thousands of trees since the program began five years ago.
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With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university and is a comprehensive, urban, coeducational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top Universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912 Tennessee State University celebrates 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu
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