Science Diary: Redwoods Battery
“At the top of a 300-foot tree, hauling a main battery into place, because the previous one had failed due to a faulty charge controller on the solar panel, which we’re also replacing. So here is the sound of hauling about 80 pounds up into the tree.”
In an age of cell phones and mp3 devices, it seems most everything needs a charged battery, even trees. Steve Sillett is an ecologist at Humboldt State University, who conducts his research atop California’s giant redwoods. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.
“Got a pulley here with a cam on it so that I can just use my leg muscles to power this weight up and the cam will hold it, keep it from falling back down.”
Humboldt Redwood State Park is home to some of the world’s tallest trees, and high up in the redwood canopy is a living laboratory for Steve Sillett and his team. On this particular day, he and a graduate student, Anthony Ambrose, are replacing batteries atop two 300-foot redwoods. The solar-charged batteries power sensors used to measure things like microclimate conditions and how much water the tree uses.
“Well, the repairs seem to have worked. Power is back up on the system. Now I’m waiting to hear from Anthony about the sensors being detected at ground level. Fingers crossed, I hope this works He’s not talking. Not a good sign.”
Sillett waits anxiously for a status report, and then
AMBROSE (over radio): “OK, it’s all there, looks good. Now I’m just going to zip up to this lower box and plug in this other one and then it should be all good from there.”
SILLETT: “Ah, that’s a huge relief. Over.” (BEEP)
By outfitting redwoods with sensors, Steve Sillett’s team is making discoveries about the unique ecology of these giant trees.
Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.