Center for Tree Science: Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program at The Morton Arboretum

Center for Tree Science: Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program at The Morton Arboretum


MUSIC FADES IN Hi, I’m Ali McGarigal and I study environmental science at Colorado College. This summer, I was an Undergraduate Research Fellow with the Champions of Trees: The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. My lab wasn’t inside, it was outside among the 1,700 acres of trees at the Arboretum. Each of us had 10 weeks to collect and analyze data with the guidance of a mentor. At the end, we were responsible for presenting our findings. For my project, I compared the efficiency and accuracy of three different forest survey methods. My goal was to figure out which method could give me the most detailed understanding of the forest in the shortest amount of time. The clock was ticking and I was excited to see what I would find. I’ve never had the opportunity to work alongside world-class tree scientists, so when I first arrived I was nervous. After meeting Dr. Cannon, the director of the Arboretum’s Center for Tree Science, I knew I was fortunate to have him as my mentor for the time I was here. He has studied trees and forests in more than a dozen countries around the world, and he is one of the leading experts in his field. It’s very important to raise the next generation of tree scientists because trees are essential in our world. And going forward, trees are going to face many, many challenges, and so there are going to be many opportunities to explore and to discover things about trees. We need young scientists who can take on new technologies, new techniques, and learn from the older generation, and then find solutions. Now that you’re fellows with us, you are officially tree champions. One of the best parts of the program was meeting the other fellows. We came from different backgrounds but science brought us together. The Undergraduate Research Fellowship allows a student to immerse themselves in a research project. The Fellowship allows students to practice their critical thinking skills as they encounter problems or have to answer new questions. After weeks working in the field I began to better understand the larger impact of my research. This was an important moment for me. If we can understand the structure of our forests now we can better predict how climate change will impact certain areas of the world. With this knowledge in hand, I presented to fellows from other leading research institutions in the Chicago area. And learned from them as well. Throughout the program, I enjoyed spending time with the other Arboretum fellows. Maybe we’ll be colleagues in the future. The end of the fellowship was approaching and the symposium was around the corner. Learning to analyze the data was challenging, but I had help. Sharing my research brought me a greater confidence in myself. I felt a sense of accomplishment I hadn’t experienced before. As an Undergraduate Research Fellow at The Morton Arboretum, I gained a new understanding of the scientific process, trees, and even myself. MUSIC FADES OUT

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

1 Comment

  1. What if neither of the 3 methods was the best? As in they all sucked and a new method would need to be developed.

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