Take a photo of a tree to help scientists know how much carbon it can store

A photo of a tree to show how much carbon can be stored. With the new NASA Globe Observer app, we can all gather scientific data and help research the environment.

A common app for smartphones, both for Android and iPhone, is able to calculate the height of a tree of which we only need to take a picture, and this is important to understand how much vegetation can store carbon.

For everyone: the app provides a guide for people to collect scientific data on the surrounding environment. Just take a picture: observers record the height of the tree by tilting the phone up and down to align the screen with the ends of the plant and the app does the rest to calculate its height.

“With the Globe Observer app, anyone can become a citizen scientist and easily take the steps to better understand their local ecosystem – explains Brian Campbell, who led the app development – Observers can measure a tree or hundreds of trees. The data, along with a GPS location tag, is sent to the NASA and collected in a database. Anyone can view them by simply connecting to the Globe site. “

Globe is a research program with more than 20 years, which has helped teachers and students to collect scientific data. Furthermore, it has long been known that vegetation fights carbon dioxide emissions: a recent analysis of the world’s forests has found that there is room to plant 1.2 billion (or trillion) new trees, capable of absorbing more carbon than that produced by 10 years of human emissions.

But the app involves us all: with this simple but effective technology we can all collect data, making us in a sense “citizen scientists”, adding to three-dimensional images normal, indispensable for NASA to calculate the potential absorption of carbon.

And it does not end here, because the height of the trees is a datum that can also be used for space missions. ” ICESat-2 will measure the height of forests all over the world and the Globe Observer app is another way to gather even more data,” explains project scientist Tom Neumann.

Certainly an educational initiative, especially on environmental issues. But there is even more, because the help we can all give is very concrete, and science really needs it, it is not just an engaging way but one that is not really needed.

“Scientists in the United States and more than 100 other countries will gather tree heights from many more places than ICESat-2 scientists could do – explains Neumann in fact – Globe measurements will be useful for validating tree heights that we receive from ICESat-2. Once the data begins to enter, the mission will analyze the information to see overlaps and differences “.

Let’s go for walks in the countryside and take photos: besides good memories we will have some very useful data. For the environment and for all of us.

The Globe Observer app can be downloaded for free on Google Play and the App Store.