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Students Study Yosemite Giant Sequoias

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Yosemite Institute (YI) students visiting Yosemite National Park this week will be learning more about giant sequoias than your average visitor.

YI, a partner of the National Park Service, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational adventures in nature´s classroom to inspire a personal connection to the natural world and responsible actions to sustain it.

Students from three high schools will be putting some extra effort into re-surveying the giant sequoias in the Tuolumne Grove, which were last measured in 1931 and 1966. YI, through the work of the school groups that come to study in the park, has been compiling data over the last three years.

Projects like this one show young people how the math and science that they learn in their regular classrooms can be applied in a real world environment as well as revealing to them the beauty of these trees.

Students will be measuring the basal circumference, the diameter at breast-height, and the height of the trees using tape measures and a surveyor´s trigonometric tool called a clinometer. The measurements will be recorded, with each tree being measured three times by three different groups for accuracy. YI will use the same tree identification numbers that the prior surveys did and make a photo album of every tree in the grove.

Students will be measuring trees throughout the week with three different classes working in the grove on Thursday. Students will also be de-compacting the soil and mulching around “Big Red,” one of the most visited trees in the grove. The park´s Resources Management Division recently removed a viewing platform from the base of this tree. De-compacting the soil alows better nutrient exchange for the root system of giant sequoias.

A copy of findings will be shared with National Park Service´s Resource Management Division, the Park Forester, USGS Biological Resources Division, and the park´s resource library. Used with the earlier data, researchers can examine fire history, climate change, and changes to the forest over time. YI also hopes to post the data on its website so that students can access the work that they and their peers completed.