“It’s probably about 300 pounds worth of gear in this tree, and about 3 kilometers worth of cable. So it’s not going to be trivial. But it will be doable.”
If you take it in, take it out, the saying goes. And in the case of ecologist Steve Sillett, of California’s Humboldt State University, taking out the equipment he’s wired into a 367-foot redwood is no small task. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.
“What we’re doing is removing a system that’s been up in this tree for like, five years, that’s been collecting data on tree water relations, canopy microclimate. But it’s sort of like at this point a thankless job, because basically there’s nothing to be gained for us, but it kind of feels good to remove all this stuff from the tree and leave the tree less cluttered with all of the techno-trash.”
Steve Sillett outfits giant redwoods with a variety of instruments and sensors, providing data on the unique characteristics of the world’s tallest trees. He then takes care to remove the gear. And at this point everything but the battery has been lowered from the tree.
“All right, the 80 pound battery is on its way down.”
“This is the sound of the rope going through a rappelling device, lowering this giant battery to the ground. I mean, we have these things lashed onto the trunk and there’s some constrictions caused by that. I think the tree is breathing a sigh of relief. This tree later today is going to feel a lot better than it does right now.”
BARBER: “Alright, battery’s on the ground.”
The discoveries Steve Sillett’s team has been making are significant, providing a window into the inner functions of the world’s tallest trees.
Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.