Blog Author : tkhan

  • Research Experiences

    A plot of Pin oaks surrounded by tall grass
    A plot of Pin oaks surrounded by tall grass. Located in Warefield, a research portion of the Morton Arboretum.

    Hello everyone!


    I can not believe my ten weeks are done, and that this is my last day at the Arboretum. While here, I have learned so much, and not just about my own project. The chance to hear about other URFs projects and even help them has allowed me to experience a variety of research.  This has definitely been one of my favorite parts of this summer.

    Through my own project, I learned how to install a SFM1 Sap Flow Meter. This is the first time the Arboretum is using Sap Flow Meter, and I am glad I had the chance to be part of the process of finding innovating ways to use this brand new technology.
    Two people in front of a tree, measuring where on the trunk 1 meter from the ground is
    Preparing to install the sap flow meter
    My project also gave me the chance to learn how to core trees.
    A person using a blue hollow hand drill to take an increment core from a pin oak
    Christine teaching me how to core a tree
    A person pulling a tree core out of the hollow part of a hand drill that has bored into the trunk of a tree
    I am taking a tree core out of the corer
    Christine Carrier
    My entire project took place in Warefield, a section of the Arboretum just for research. Before my internship, I didn’t even know this part of the Arboretum existed.
    A plot of trees surrounded by tall grass
    The section of Warefield where my research took place
    My changed over the course of the summer, and I am no longer using the drone, however I still learned how to fly it during my early weeks here. This was super exciting, and an experience I would likely have never had if not for my time at the Arboretum.  I also learned how to make a 3D model from the pictures the drone took.
    A person flying a drone low to the ground near a oak tree
    Learning to fly a drone
    Helping out fellow URF Alyssa gave my a sneak peak into the world of leaf nutrient analysis. I got to help out with the process from collecting samples to measuring and grinding.
    Four severed branches on the ground with plastic bags with twig samples below them.
    Collecting leaf and twig samples
    four leaves laid out on white paper with a ruler below them
    We took photos of the leaves with a ruler next to them. This was so that the program ImageJ could measure the area of each leaf.
    A mortar and pestle filled with ground up leaves. A tiny jar with ground of leafs inside of it.
    We grinded leaves in the mortar and pestle so their Nitrogen content could be analyzed

    I also had the chance to get a taste of lab work while helping Alyssa prepare the DNA samples she needed for her project.

    A blue container filled with numbered plastic vials
    I helped Alyssa get all her vials labeled
    There is so much amazing research happening at the Arboretum, and I am so happy I had the chance to be a part of it this summer.
  • Field Trip!

    The gray skeleton of a dinosaur displayed in the main hall of the Field Museum
    Sue the dinosaur

    The Morton fellowship has not only given me the chance to create my own research project, but also to visit some exciting places. One of the places we visited was the Chicago Field Museum. The trip was extra exciting because we received a behind the scene view of the ongoing research. Here are some of the highlights of the trips.


    We had a chance to visit the lab where fish are studied. The size of the skeletons and how well preserved the scales were really surprised me.

    A table full of blue and green trays holding fish skeletons and scales of various sizes
    The fish lab


    We also spent some time looking at the pinned butterflies. I learned that the butterflies’ beautiful bright colors are created by the structure of their scales, and stay vibrant as long as they are not in the sun.

    A glass box filled with pinned black and white butterflies with blue and yellow details on their wings
    Pinned butterflies
    six bright blue iridescent butterflies with black tipped wings in a a glass case
    Iridescent butterflies

    The collections in the basement was another stop on our tour. I had no idea so many specimens were stored in the Field Museum!

    A shelled specimen preserved in a glass jar
    A specimen from the collections
    The blue and pink stained skeleton of a small bat in a glass jar
    Bat skeleton from the collections


    We wrapped up our trip by visiting the exhibits and of course Sue the dinosaur!

    The skeleton of a dinosaur displayed in the museum
    Sue the dinosaur
    The Field Museum
  • Lights, Camera, Action!

    Pink "X"s spray painted on the trunk of a Pin oak
    Spray paint mapping out where sap flow meters will be installed

    These past few week I have been working on setting the stage for my experiment. My project has changed a bit since my first post, and I am now studying the impact of an injury on the rate of sap flow in Pin oaks. Choosing the trees and installing the sap flow meters was a process that was completely new to me.


    Even before we went outside, we mapped out where we wanted to put the sap flow meters.

    A white board with a diagram of a tree, and where on the tree the sensors will be, drawn in blue
    Mapping sensor location


    Once outside, we measured the diameter of the Pin oaks. This was important because we wanted to install the sap flow sensors in trees that were of comparable size. This was my first time using a DBH tape, which tells you the diameter of the tree based on the circumference. This is Alyssa, another fellow at the Arboretum, measuring the DBH.

    Using a yellow tape to measure the diameter of a Pin oaks
    Alyssa measuring the DBH of a Pin oak


    Next we spray painted where the injury and sensors would be.

    Pink "X"s spray painted on a tree to shows where sensors will be installed
    Spray painting where the sensors will go

    Then we began chiseling away the bark. The sap flow sensors only work if they are installed in the sapwood located behind the bark.

    A person using a orange chisel to remove the bark of the tree
    Alyssa chiseling away the bark


    After that we drilled holes for the sensor’s needles to go inside. We practiced drilling the hole in a severed piece of tree trunk before moving on to the Pin oaks.

    Drilling a tiny hole in a severed tree trunk
    Practicing drilling holes

    We then attached the sensors and strapped them onto the tree. We also connected the sensors to solar panels that keep them charged and running. The sap flow sensors will be left on for the next week. About half way through the week, we will be injuring the tree and seeing how the data on the rate of sap flow changes.

    Four sensors installed in the side of a Pin oak
    Complete installation of the sap flow meters
  • Sensors, Sap Flow, Science

    a Pin oak with four different sap flow meters attached along the trunk
    a Pin oak with four different sap flow meters attached along the trunk

    In the last few weeks my project has been changing, and now I get to work with an exciting piece of technology, sap flow meters!


    This is the SFM1 Sap Flow Meter.

    Four sap flow meters attached to a tree with orange spray paint markings on it
    Sap flow meters installed in a Pin oak



    There are 2 main parts to the sap flow meter. The data logger, which is silver, and the sensors, which are the red and black pins. Each of the pins has a different job.

    A red pin and two black pins inserted into the trunk of a Pin oak
    The three pins of the sap flow meter


    The pin closest to the data logger measures the ambient temperature of the sap, which is usually flowing upwards. The red pin heats up the sap, and then the top black pin measures the temperature again. Based on the change in temperature, you can get the volume and rate of sap flowing past the sensor. And, if you measure the diameter of the tree, you can get the volume and rate of sap flowing through the entire tree.


    In the next few weeks, I will be looking at how the rate of sap flow changes when an injury is added to the tree. The completed setup, with the injury, will look similar to this.

    A Pin oak with four different sap flow meters installed in various location along the trunk
    a Pin oak with four sap flow meters installed

    I am excited to get started using the sap flow meters and learn more about how injuries impact a tree!



  • An Exciting Beginning!

    An Exciting Beginning!
    Learning how to take off

    Hi everyone!

    My name is Taskeen Khan and I am one of the Undergraduate Research Fellows this summer at the Morton Arboretum. I am a rising sophomore from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, majoring in integrative biology. I live a short drive from the arboretum, so getting a new perspective on the place I come with my family to enjoy the fall leaves, spring flowers, and many exhibits, is definitely exciting, especially since the Arboretum’s heavy involvement in research was something new to me.


    In just these first few weeks, I have learned so much, including how to fly a drone!


    This summer, I will be using the drone to collect data on how trees’ photosynthesis changes. Lane, my mentor's research assistant, is teaching me how to fly the drone. She said it would be similar to a video game controller, which seemed pretty hard to me, but it ended up being much easier than I expected!



    The drone silhouetted against a blue sky above Mongolian oak tree with sparse leaves
    Here I am practicing flying the drone around a Mongolian oak.


    The drone has a multispectral sensor attached to it, which takes photos of the visible and infrared light reflected by the tree. The amount of light reflected tells us how efficiently the tree is photosynthesizing, with healthy trees reflecting more than unhealthy trees.


    Usually, this is used in agriculture to determine which areas are not doing as much photosynthesis, and therefore experiencing some kind of stress, such as drought or nutrition. However, we will be using this to made a 3D model of the tree and see how how the photosynthesis in different part of the tree changes in different conditions. I am excited to continue using the drone and learn more about trees!