Science Diary: Redwoods – Climbing
Sillett: This is a very old tree. I’ve been looking forward to climbing this one for years because of its very open and clean lower trunk, and just has a soaring crown.
For many people, climbing trees is a fond summertime memory. Steve Sillett is an ecologist at Humboldt State University, and in order to study the canopy of California’s redwoods, Sillett and his team climb them. But at four times the height of our tallest Maple trees, this kind of tree climbing is a serious business. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.
Sillett: Well, I’m at the top a very tall tree. 108.4 meters with Jim Spickler. We climbed this tree today from scratch, because it’s going to be in one of our main study plots. The process of rigging a tree basically involves firing a line into the tree with a powerful hunting bow and then pulling progressively larger lines into the tree, tying the rope off at one end and climbing the other end. What do you think, Jim?
Well, it doesn’t have a lot of complexity below the entry shot that we made. So it wasn’t that difficult of a shot to get in.
Sillett: “Oh, yeah, this was probably the second highest entry shot we’ve ever had to make. About 86 meters. And the first branches were what, 75 meters above the ground. This tree had an incredibly clean lower trunk. But once you get up into the tree on the first shot, then it’s a matter of going from branch to branch all the way to the top.
Just a series of throws with a piece of equipment we called a split-tail lanyard; a series of throws, make it to the top, and then you get to enjoy this incredible view up here.
Steve Sillett’s redwood research has increased our understanding of the world’s tallest trees. Our latest project is a competition for third to sixth graders. You can check it out at kidsciencechallenge.com. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation.