Between capturing Instagram-worthy images of blooming cherry blossoms, why not snap a few photos for NASA?
Citizens scientists can help investigate how carbon moves through ecosystems by using your smartphone to measure tree height.
NASA’s GLOBE Observer app provides a step-by-step guide for people to collect and submit data on their surroundings—including Earth’s cloud and land cover and mosquito habitats.
The new GLOBE Trees feature, meanwhile, lets users record tree height by simply tilting their phone up and down to align the screen with the top branch and base, then pace off the distance to the woody plant.
Observers can measure one tree or one hundred trees—there is no pressure or obligation.
Data points, along with a GPS tag of the tree’s location, are sent back to NASA and stored in a database.
The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program debuted on Earth Day 1995 to promote the teaching and learning of science, enhance environmental literacy, and promote scientific discovery.
Students and teachers gathered data for more than 20 years before the platform expanded in 2016 with the GLOBE Observer app. The tree-height project is the latest in a growing suite of mobile tools.
This task, according to NASA, could also help scientists working on other missions, including the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), which uses a laser to measure the height of Earth’s surface below.
“ICESat-2 will measure the heights of forest canopies worldwide—and the GLOBE Observer app is another way to collect even more data,” Tom Neumann, ICESat-2’s project scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.
Once GLOBE data starts rolling in, the team will analyze it to see where a cluster of citizen scientist measurements overlap with ICESat-2’s measurements, and compare the two sets.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the difference is,” Neumann said.
Download the GLOBE Observer app for free in the iTunes App Store or Google Play.
Anyone can visualize tree height and other GLOBE data via the program website.
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