During fall quarter, students enrolled in Biology 221 with Dr. Lisa Carlson can expect to get their hands and feet dirty as they take the classroom outdoors.
Equipped with tape measures and tags, students will hike through the Seminary Hill Natural Area to gather data from eight permanent plots. Within each plot, students will tag and identify trees, and measure the diameter and height of each to determine volume. This data will be used to roughly calculate the amount of carbon dioxide the trees remove from the atmosphere.
Carlson will then ask the class to compile the data to compare the carbon footprint of Centralia College to the carbon absorbed on Seminary Hill. Students in Carlson’s classes have been gathering data from Seminary Hill to monitor carbon absorption since 2010. Carlson hopes to establish a data trend over time.
In addition to monitoring the trees, students will also make leaf bags from window screen. The mesh bags, measuring about the size of a piece of paper, will be filled with alder or oak leaves and taken to the O’Neill Natural Area on River Heights Road. There, the bags will be covered with decomposing material or moss and left for one year. Next year, students in the incoming class will weigh the leaf bags again and record the difference to determine the rate of decomposition.
Both projects work together to give students a better understanding of the global carbon cycle. As they step outside, these future scientists and biologists ultimately gain a better awareness of their own carbon footprints and how they impact nature.