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Expanding Our Roots

Mapping Beetle Means There'll Always Be Toilet Paper?
by Ian Hendry

Text Box:    A student gives her mountain pine beetle some character.

A student gives her mountain pine
beetle some character.

VICTORIA – National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) in the Pacific Region took place in Victoria in October 2006, with a number of successful educational workshops held for local students. One workshop saw students learning how Natural  Resources Canada (NRCan) research scientists map trees damaged by mountain pine beetles using data collected by satellites.

Spatial analyst Joanne White showed how the mountain pine beetle attacks trees as well as how trees can defend themselves. The lesson then focused on why it is useful to track beetle destruction.

“So, why is it important to map mountain pine beetle,” asked Joanne.

Students represeent pixels of healthy trees.

The answer from one imaginative and innovative young mind? “Because if all the trees die we won't have any toilet paper.”

More accurately, NRCan maps beetle damage in order to manage the economic, environmental, and social impacts of the infestation.

To further demonstrate spatial imaging, Joanne had a group of students stand in a grid, each representing a tree within a satellite image pixel.

Donning green hats to represent healthy trees, the children learned how quickly mountain pine beetle spreads once one of their fellow trees exchanged a green for a red hat.

Soon, the pixel turned from green to red to grey symbolizing the corresponding stages of tree health and conveying how quickly an “endemic” population can become an outbreak.

“It was challenging to prepare a lesson and devise interactive exercises that convey quite difficult concepts,” says Joanne who uses spatial imaging in her work on the mountain pine beetle and for the Earth Observation for Sustainable Development program.

“It was about trying to get the students to understand how mountain pine beetles kill trees and offer some flavour for how we are mapping the damage from space.”

For the finale, everyone got to make their very own beetle out of clay. First, local artist Esther Drone demonstrated sculpting techniques and then she helped the students model the body, antennae and legs.

Pacific Forestry Centre beetle entomologists Doug Linton and Terry Shore as well as specialists Lara Van Akker and Rod Garbutt were also on hand to offer expert tips on beetle anatomy.


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