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Sandy High students present data at watershed summit

Ten juniors from Sandy High School’s environmental science class presented data gathered from field work May 23 at Timberline Lodge.by: POST PHOTO: NEIL ZAWICKI - Jessi Thomas, Korinnah Linganay, Randy Prado, Ray Klein and Alexis Friberg presented data and findings May 23 at Timberline Lodge as part of the Watershed Summit. The juniors conducted field work on trees and lichens to gather scientific data. They presented their findings to a panel of forest service officials and academics. The students presented their data to a panel that included professors from Portland State University, officials from Mt. Hood National Forest and instructors from Wolftree, a nonprofit science education group.

Presenting their data in an academic and professional forum was an experience that took the students from their high school mindset, giving them a taste of real-world field research. This is not to say the students didn’t perform real-world tasks in their field work, but gathering data and presenting it to a discerning panel are two different things.

“I guess it was pretty nerve-racking, but once we got up there and started talking, it was really sort of natural,” said Randy Prado. She and her group presented data on Douglas fir trees.

“We calculated information on their growth and also gathered height data,” she said. “We used a clinometer (to gauge the elevation).”

To calculate the growth, the group took samples of the trunks, using a boring tool that extracts a long shaft of the trunk for examination. They also found pitch pockets in some of the trees, which are large areas filled with pitch, sort of like a healing wound, that indicate damage activity.

“They’re rare to find,” Prado said.

The group behaved with the confidence of a field research team, having been mentored by members of Wolftree. Asked the average age of a Douglas fir tree in their sampling area, the team sprang to action, referencing materials to find the data.

“Fifty-nine point eleven years,” called out team member Alexis Freeberg.

Jesse Thomas is another who presented data at the summit. His work focused on lichen.

“A lichen is a partnership between a fungus and algae,” he explained. “We basically just took lichen samples and identified them and got their biodiversity, and then used this information to study the different types in different ecosystems.”

Thomas said he learned that some lichens were more dominant than others in some areas.

“We think there may have been a chemical difference in the tree that kept others out,” he said.

While the students worked with Wolftree members, they also had the opportunity to work alongside seniors form Portland State, who worked with the students as part of their senior capstone project. Freeberg said working with the college students was a good experience, and also an ironic one.

“Sometimes it seemed like they had more questions than we did,” she said.