A plot of Pin oaks surrounded by tall grass. Located in Warefield, a research portion of the Morton Arboretum.
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.
Preparing to install the sap flow meter
My project also gave me the chance to learn how to core trees.
Christine teaching me how to core a tree
I am taking a tree core out of the corer
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.
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.
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.
Collecting leaf and twig samples
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 specimen from the collections
Bat skeleton from the collections
We wrapped up our trip by visiting the exhibits and of course Sue the dinosaur!
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.
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.
Alyssa measuring the DBH of a Pin oak
Next we spray painted where the injury and sensors would be.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 sap flow meters installed
I am excited to get started using the sap flow meters and learn more about how injuries impact a tree!
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!
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!