Tardigrades in the canopy

Moderators: edfrank, dbhguru

Post Reply
User avatar
pdbrandt
Posts: 164
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:51 pm

Tardigrades in the canopy

Post by pdbrandt » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:29 pm

Last week I had the chance to help out with a very unique public tree climbing event hosting by Meg Lowman, Director of the North Carolina Nature Research Center (NRC). The event marked the culmination of a summer undergraduate research program co sponsored by the NRC and Baker University in Kansas. About 10 undergraduates, many of whom are wheel chair bound when on land, learned to climb trees with the help of Dan, Stan, and Becki at Tree Climbing Kansas City. (See http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/jun/0 ... h-project/). During the summer they climbed nearly 150 trees of many different species to collect tardigrades, or water bears, from lichen and moss samples at many heights in the trees. Tardigrades are microscopic organisms that feed on greenery when water is plentiful, but can go into a state of suspended animation for months or even years when water is absent. They are so small that they are not harmful to trees.

The researchers wanted to see how high in the trees these tiny animals could be found and whether the tardigrade populations in a given tree are genetically related or distinct. Answers to those questions will help them understand how tardigrades populate trees. The youg scientists came to the NRC to present their findings to the public, meet Canopy Meg, and to climb some tall Piedmont trees (apparently Kansan trees aren't known for height).

Meg asked me to round up a couple members of the Piedmont Recreational Tree Climbing Club to rig some suitable trees for the public climb that took place last Friday at the Prairie Ridge Ecostation in Raleigh. Meg also enlisted the help of Tim Kovar (owner of Tree Climbing Planet) and Peter and Patty Jenkins (owners of Tree Climbers International) to help get the public into the trees alongside the summer researchers.

We pruned and rigged a woods grown pecan tree with wide strong limbs with 5 classic Blake's hitch DRT systems. Peter continuously facilitated first time climbers of all ages in that tree from 9am to 5pm. Tim set up a 3:1 and a 5:1 mechanical advantage DRT "super system", a couple more standard DRT setups, and a continuous loop SRT system in some tall loblolly pines not far away. The super systems were used to get mobility impaired people into the tree. I was stationed at the SRT line helping new climbers ascend via the Texas Kick or stand-sit method. When they got as high as they wanted, I lowered the whole system back to the ground on an ID belay device.

I don't know the exact count of first time climbers who came to the event, but it was probably between 30 and 40. Lots of Meg's colleagues and staff from the NRC came and brought their children. There was a local farmer of Scottish nativity who came to learn the ropes with the plan of better caring for the large, open grown oaks on his pasture land. The event was great publicity for our recreational climbing group, too, and we are making plans to hold a group climb for our revitalized club soon.

Kudos to Meg for wading through (or ignoring, I'm not sure which) all the legalities and planning an event that got scores of people into the canopy safely. It never fails that when a person trusts their life to a tree and experiences the canopy perspective, they come away a stronger ally for conservation with a renewed appreciation for trees and smile on their face.

Click on image to see its original size

Click on image to see its original size

Click on image to see its original size

Click on image to see its original size

Click on image to see its original size

Click on image to see its original size
Patrick

User avatar
Larry Tucei
Posts: 2016
Joined: Tue Mar 09, 2010 10:44 am

Re: Tardigrades in the canopy

Post by Larry Tucei » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:48 pm

Patrick- Hey that is a really special gift from you guys for those who might not never climb a tree. Way cool stuff!! Larry

Post Reply

Return to “Canopy Research”