Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Data Workshop in Review

18 Educators from Mass., Vermont and New Hampshire, gathered at Harvard Forest  on December 15, 2016 to  learn how to work with Schoolyard Ecology Data

Dr. Betsy Colburn Introduced Looking at Data 

  • It was great to hear where other people are with citizen science and to see that I have done some good work and that I have great areas for expansion of all of this too. I liked looking at examples of graphs with Dr. Colburn and talking about how we all interpret them. .
  • It created a great mindset for the importance of data and the stories they can tell.
  • It is always wonderful to learn something new that you can use immediately. And I liked how some of the participants talked about data being a story. I will use that in my practice.
  • Just seeing other ways of presenting the data helps me bust out of my fixed point or line-scatter plots

 Dr. Emery Boose introduced beginning Schoolyard Teachers to Data Management and Input

  •  Dr. Boose did a wonderful job starting from the beginning and being very patient and clear.
  • I especially enjoyed the importance placed on making copies and keeping track of metadata. This is an important step to stress with students as well.
  • I wish could have started entering data sooner in the day.
  • Needed more time working with my data.

Harvard Forest Staff  Mentored Teachers in Working with Project Data 

          •  I was supported fully.
          • It was very nice to have such experts on hand.
          • Thank you for having so many ready to help out!!!!
          • We had a great time together.
          • Matthew was terrific helping us interpret our own pond data and instructed us on using pivot tables to create graphs. Excellent!
          • All were incredible patient in giving us the tools to communicate science effectively to our students.
          • Everyone is sweet, kind , responsive and professional.

  • I learn best by hearing, seeing, doing, messing up, fixing and shouting "yeah!"
  • It helps me to see the exercise being done and to walk through it with a mentor helps be understand the process.
  • It was very valuable to have time to "do the work".
  • I was happy to have time to work on google docs and google sheets. I identified that I definitely need more practice manipulating data in this way.

  • Today was very helpful since I practiced making graphs on excel and really did not know how to do that before today. I also worked with my own data and that was very helpful to work on making graphs that can help my students interpret the data from our school.
  • boy, did I ever graph!
  • I was able to get wonderful guidance entering my data and beginning to use the graphing tools on the websites. I simply ran out of time and would have loved to ask more question about graphing.
  • I enjoyed hearing about the different graphing techniques and seeing the presentations from Betsy and Emery. I also enjoyed talking and sharing with other teachers over lunch.
  • I tackled Google sheets for the first time - and had it crying "Uncle!"
  • I never did this before so the practice was so helpful
  • It was great to have time to do this work not isolated at school but in a community of like minded teachers and expert ecologists. In addition, I am very grateful for the ecologists taking the time to patiently explain.
  • I have realized how much I need to learn about working on google sheets. This is a good thing, especially because this is the spreadsheet system available to students at my school and I am glad to know I need more practice before I introduce it to them.

  • we already are, we will continue. They will presenting the story of their tree to their classmates next week!
  • I think I will certainly show them graphs and other representations of the data. I'm not sure I will have them analyze data this year.

Related Links

Emery Boose Data Workshop Level I Presentation .pdf  2016 Data Management, Data Entry Intro.

Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology Database  to download or graph project data. 

Fall Phenology Summary and Graphs 2016.pdf . Dr. John O'Keefe's updated Phenology graphs.

Coming Soon

Later this winter, look for updates to our:

Dr. Betsy Colburn's Updated Looking at Data  Presentations
Schoolyard Ecology Field Site Map
Branch To Tree Level Data Conversion Sheet
Compilation of Teacher-Created Graphs from 2016 Data Workshop
Schoolyard Ecology Data Synthesis for the Buds, Leaves and Global Warming Project
Announcement of Spring Workshop for Teachers

Monday, December 19, 2016

Harvard Grad Student Looks at 12 years of Schoolyard Data

Harvard University Graduate student, Nate Edelman, was able to analyze  the data that thousands of K-12 students have contributed to the Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology program  over the past 12 years. 

So what is all the data showing anyhow?

Nate has created a series of graphs from the complex and large Buds, Leaves and Global Warming project dataset.  We are pleased to share these graphs with you now.

Until now, we have focussed most of our data analysis efforts on helping you, teachers, to understand our Project Ecologists' long term data as well as to represent patterns in your own site's data.  Last year, we were challenged by  The Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) network to do some synthesis of Schoolyard data over time and across sites to see if any patterns are evident.

The first six graphs here are looking at the timing  of leaf fall  for Sugar Maple (Acer Saccharinum), Red Maple (Acer Rubrum),  Black Cherry (Prunus Serotina), and Black Birch (Betula Lenta), Oak (Quercus) and Beech (Fagus) across Schoolyard Ecology field sites over 12 years.

How to interpret these graphs:

According to Nate Edelman, the blue lines on these graphs is a "smoothed Loess regression" calculated by R (Graphing program), which uses information from before and after each date to estimate the mean value for that date.  The grey area is the 95% confidence interval for that estimation.  The black dots are the calculated  means using only information from that exact day.  
Notice that the line drops towards the end of the season in these 2 figures above.  We would not expect the line to go down because more leaves would presumably fall at the end of the growing season. Please see Nate's comments followed by my comments  below to understand why the curve took this unexpected turn.  

Nate's thoughts about the drop in percent leaf fall of Oak and Beech at the end of the season:  
 I've plotted a histogram of the number of observations taken on each Julian data  and superimposed it on the leaf fall graph.What they show is that the number of observations reported dropped significantly at the end of the year, and that's when we get the unexpectedly low values.  I have an idea for how to get around this but didn't have time to test it out yet. 

Schoolyard Coordinator notes:  Please keep in mind that both species of Oak and Beech frequently retain leaves through much of the winter.  The leaves turn brown but many do not fall in the autumn when leaves from other species typically fall.  Some researchers stop monitoring leaf drop once most of the leaves have turned brown.  Our protocol asks to record oak and beech leaves as fallen after they have turned completely brown, in order to show that those leaves have stopped photosynthesizing and therefore the growing season is officially over for those leaves.  Sometimes, researchers forget to mark the leaves as "fallen" and this affects the ability to accurately graph the end of the growing season.    I'm interested to see that even Red Maple leaves fallen go down which must be due to far fewer observations at that time per Nate's notes above. 


Comparison of Schoolyard Data to  Project Ecologist, John O'Keefe's Data 

The next thing I did (above) was to take the two species we talked about, red oak and red maple, and compare them to John’s data. Qualitatively, the data for average 50 percent leaf fall and bud burst look similar, but when we look at the leaves on days, there are some fairly major discrepancies. In John’s data, there is a nice consistent separation of about 3 weeks of leaves on days between the species. However, the schoolyard data has some years in which the maple has a longer growing season than the oak, and in all cases the difference was much smaller.  
Below, I made the J.O.K.-style graphs and the leaf fall curves for each of the four species mentioned above, as well as black birch and black cherry
 -Nate Edelman

What is the spatial distribution of trees in the study?

Finally (Below),  I used the same species and tried to get a more geographical perspective. I combined the data by town, and made two maps for each species. One is the average number of leaves on days across the whole experimental period. The size of the dot corresponds to the number of years of data we have, and its color corresponds to the number of leaves on days.   
-Nate Edelman

 Below are map graphs of the most common 3-5 species with the larger circles showing where there are more trees of a certain species. I looked at the number of individuals of each species, and a natural cutoff seemed to be at 4 species (Red Oak, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, and Beech). I grouped all the trees by town, and plotted circles on those towns with sizes corresponding to how many trees of each species were used. I made two graphs – the first one is of unique trees, and the second is of all observations. So if a certain town had a single Red Maple, it would show as a small circle on the first graph, but if they had followed it for several years and had many records, it would be relatively larger on the second graph. I also included the total numbers next to the key. These graphs can unfortunately be a little hard to read because so many of the points overlap one another.
-Nate Edelman

The other graphs below show the change in leaves on days across the time period. I only included sites that had at least three years worth of data for this, and the color corresponds to the slope of the regression line. Positive slope (and red color) indicates an increase in growing season length. Negative slope (and blue color) indicates a decrease in growing season length. There is a big caveat here, which is that to get the growing season each year, I averaged the 50p bud burst and the 50p leaf fall for that town and took the difference. That would be fine if there was lots of data, but sometimes there were very few (or only one) trees, and they might be different trees for the bud burst date vs the leaf fall date! This is in contrast to John’s data, where we are looking at the exact same tree each season and each year.
                                                                                                       -Nate Edelman 

Stay Tuned for Multi Site Graphing Tool Next Year...
Harvard Forest Information Manager, Emery Boose, has proposed developing some cross site analysis capability using  Schoolyard Ecology Online Graphing tools.  In the meantime, give it a try using your graphing method and send us some examples!

Links for More Information on Harvard Forest Schoolyard Data Synthesis:

Dr. John O'Keefe's Phenology Graphs 2016.pdf to see graphs of 26 year dataset. 

Download Schoolyard Ecology Data from our online database to see all student generated data

Buds, Leaves, and Global Warming Schoolyard Ecology Project Information and Resources

Interactive Field Site Map to access data by school field site locations. This map will be updated this winter to include  schools who have joined our projects this year. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What do We do with the Data?

Okay Now That We Have Collected the Data, What Do We Do with It???

A Brief Sketch of the Process: 

1. Read database instructions to input fall data on our online database, by January 1st at the latest.

   (See links below)

2.  Send us a photo of your field site 
as an attachment so we can add this to our database.
Photo is mandatory for Changing Forests project and optional for
 other projects.  

We only need 1 photo for each field site or plot. If you have
 already sent one, you are all set.

3. Input Fall field data 

4. Double check accuracy.

See Instructions link below for more on what to look for specifically.

 5. Email Information Manager at: boose@fas.harvard.edu  to upload once your data is ready.

This is important if you want to download/graph your data before dates below. Otherwise fall data will be uploaded on January 31st and spring data will be uploaded on June 30th.


 6. Download Data   

7.  Graph Data to look for patterns  

 Graphs Using Harvard Forest Online Graphing Tool :

 Graphs  Using Other Graphing Software: 

Attend the Looking at Data Workshop at Harvard Forest for help with all of this! 

Thursday, December 15th

Harvard Forest

Attend the Data Workshop and we will walk you through all of these steps if you are a first year Schoolyard teacher.

If you are an experienced Schoolyard teacher, we encourage you to input data on your own and then use the Data Workshop to polish your data literacy skills...go deeper into data analysis and/or representation.


How will the day be structured? One workshop will support Schoolyard Ecology teachers with beginning through advanced data management, graphing, and/or analysis skills.  We will convene as one group, spend most of the day in break out groups by skill level (self-determined by teachers) and reconvene at the end of the session  to see advanced teachers share graphs and other products they developed in the session. 

Outcomes: Teachers/Educators will have materials and knowledge necessary to manage and graph project data.   Educators will have materials to support students in better understanding what the data are revealing about study themes.  Specific outcomes will vary depending on the experience level  and goals of each participant. 

When is it?  Thursday, December 15, 2016

Times:   9:00a.m. -3:00p.m.

Who is Invited?     This workshop is intended for teachers who are currently participating in a Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology project.  We often accept requests from teachers looking to preview the program and/or collaborating non-profit or governmental agencies to attend.

Registration Process:  Email Pamela at psnow@fas.harvard.edu with "Data Workshop Registration" in the subject line.  Include in your email  the following: your name,  your school name, your project name, and the grade level(s) you teach.

What Level?  In your registration email, include the  level you identify with ( level 1-1st year, wanting guidance on data entry; level 2 second or more year-wanting to begin graphing using HF graphing exercises; level 3 wanting to graph/work with individualized goals, our own data or cross site data)   Feel free to consult Pamela if you are not sure what level to register for. If you are selecting levels 2 or 3, please indicate what software program or hand graphing, etc. you intend to work with during the workshop.

Is This Worth my Precious Time Away from School???

Here is what teachers said last year about the workshop:   


Teacher comments from 2015 Workshop: 
  • "It was very helpful and it made me more confident in my understanding and usage of the data set. It also made me feel more confident in having my students use the data that they collected."
  • I exceeded my goal and accomplished much more: calculating growing season, data entry of vp and phenology data, introducing Erin to HF and integrating her into the system, opportunity to share and collaborate with teachers and HF staff
  • I have a better idea of the type of data that is available through the LTER database. I can identify reliable sources/complete data sources versus ones that have questionable reliability or ones that are incomplete.
  • I learn more and more each time I come out... I always bring something back to my classroom that I can directly use.
  • Graphs are wonderful and an important way to look at data. Betsy's presentation helped me to understand how to better look at graphs and how important it is to select the right graph for the data. For me graph reading can be challenging so any additional information and support I receive is so important. I suspect I am not the only person out there with graph reading challenges!

 Links for Schoolyard Ecology Data Resources :

 Database Instructions

Submit Data on HF Database

Sample Teacher-made Graphs

Harvard Forest Schoolyard Data Documents by Betsy Colburn

Slides from 2015 Looking at Data Workshop are posted on our website at:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Someone to Be Thankful For: Carey Lang, Project Coach

Field Support

Teachers at schools throughout Massachusetts are thankful for the help provided by Schoolyard Ecology Project Coach, Carey Lang.   With the support of the Hightstead Foundation, Carey has travelled to field sites from as far Southeast as Middleborough, to Beverly in the Northeast, and to South Hadley and Belchertown in Western Massachusetts, Carey also visited sites in Fitchburg, Lowell, and Worcester, helping to set up new plots for teachers participating in the Our Changing Forest plots.
Note that Tree Icon shows existing field site locations and yellow dots show new sites added in 2016.

Specifically, Carey has supported plot setup and/or data collection at the following locations this fall: 

South Hadley High School;  Hunking Middle School in Haverhill ; Applewild School in Fitchburg; Bartlett Community Partnership in Lowell; Middleborough High School; Worcester Academy; Belchertown HIgh School; Drumlin Farm  in Lincoln. and Glen Urquhart School in Beverly.  

Photos by Sally Farrow, Drumlin Farm, Massachusetts Audubon 

I was very excited to meet with Carey yesterday afternoon and get started on the Changing Forests Project- I think it is a perfect fit with my curriculum and she was a lot of help. 
-Emily Chamas, Applewild School, Fitchburg

Thanks again for sending Carey our way. She is wonderful and it was so great to have her working with our teens... we had a great session with the wildlife biologists.
 -Sally Farrow, Carrie Webster and Flavio Sutti, the leaders of the Wildlife Biologists club Drumlin Farm, Mass. Audubon 

Carey has been amazing! ... helpful, affirming, fabulous to have another adult, adding legitimacy because the kids know that there's a real scientist helping us do the project!
-Louise Levy, Belchertown High School

Online Support

In addition to visiting field sites in person, Carey has also reached out to all participating  Our Changing Forests Teachers throughout the fall.  

After helping to mentor teachers during the Summer Institute for Teachers in August, Carey reached out to all of the new Changing Forests teachers. Here is a short excerpt of her outreach at that time:

Hello all!  It was great to meet everyone today at the teacher workshop and I’m excited to get started on helping you set up your plots! I had the chance to speak with several of you before you left at the end of the day, but I did miss a couple of people....If you DO want my help setting up a plot, please reply to this email with several tentative dates and times....Also keep in mind that I am always happy to answer questions/help with plant IDs/troubleshoot problems over email or phone.

Once most of the plots were set up and data had been collected at field sites, Carey reached out to the group again to prepare them for entering project data. 

I want to start off by saying that it’s been really great to work with all of you and your students these past couple of months! I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you, and I’m happy with how each of your projects seem to be coming together. As we wrap up the field season, I wanted to leave you with some next steps for the database to help organize you. I know submitting your data might seem daunting, but the database is really very user friendly and, as always, I’m here to help if you need me. 

I’ve gone ahead and added both you and your school to the database, which means that you are now able to go in and add both your field site information, your site descriptions and your DBH measurements. 

Harvard Forest Demonstration Plot for Field Trip Groups

Carey also worked with Pamela Snow in creating a demonstration plot at Harvard Forest that can be used by visiting groups who would like to participate in hands-on citizen science as part of a field trip experience.  Some teachers do not feel comfortable leading a project at their school, but want their students to experience field ecology as an activity led by Harvard Forest staff.  

Carey developed a simpler version of the Our Changing Forests protocol for use by students visiting Harvard Forest. Students use the same type of field sheet as the Changing Forests students use.  She developed a field guide specific to the tree species present in the HF plot in order to make tree identification much more accessible to students.  

Carey worked with Pamela to set up 4 contiguous 10x10 meter plots at Harvard Forest, following the same protocol as the Our Changing Forests plots in order that data can contribute to the Schoolyard Ecology database.  Corner markers and tree tags are all in place for the next group who is ready to participate in monitoring this plot. Pamela has piloted this activity with 2 field trip groups and is looking forward to offering it as choice for future groups seeking a hands-on activity at the Forest.

Related Links for More Information

Our Changing Forests Project Information and Resources

HF Demonstration Plot Tree Guide by Carey Lang

Schoolyard Ecology Database  to download and/or graph Our Changing Forests Data

Highstead  to see other work related to natural landscape conservation, research and education.