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Harvard Forest Research Project 2022

  • Title: Witness Tree Social Media Project
  • Principal investigator: Tim Rademacher (trademacher@fas.harvard.edu)
  • Institution:
  • Primary contact: Tim Rademacher (trademacher@fas.harvard.edu)
  • Team members: Clarisse Hart; Taylor Jones
  • Abstract:

    The Harvard Forest Witness Tree, the oldest known living organism on social media, is an ambassador for life in a changing environment.

    In 2017, the century-old tree first came into the spotlight as the focus of a popular book about climate change, Witness Tree, written by journalist Lynda Mapes.

    Inspired by the book and by colleagues at TreeWatch.net, post-doctoral fellow Tim Rademacher installed sensors and cameras on and around the tree. He linked that sensor information to the rich Harvard Forest data archive, adding 55+ years of climate perspective to the tree's outputs. A custom-built computer program translates sensor information into messages for Facebook and Twitter.

    With collaboration from Clarisse Hart (Director of Outreach and Education at Harvard Forest) and Taylor Jones (Assistant Research Professor at Boston University), recent years have seen a refinement of sensors and equipment, and new outreach with communities and educators, in preparation to deploy three additional witness trees along an urban-to-rural gradient in Massachusetts.

    The Witness Tree social media project carries the Witness Tree book's storytelling mission forward, with the added ability to share information about the tree's life and changing environment in real-time.