Academics

Creating a Digital Nature Trail

“This summer we will be creating a digital nature trail at Forest Hill. We will have several locations where students can input data that is then uploaded to the DDSC and made available to science teachers in area schools.” – Dave Clark

The Forest Hill Nature Center, located just a few miles northwest of the Alma campus, has been a valuable educational resource over the years not only for Alma College science and education students but also for local elementary and middle school science teachers.

With funding from the Dow grant, Dave Clark plans to blanket the nature center with wireless wi-fi coverage so that students can input scientific data from the field for downloading to the Dow Digital Science Center (DDSC), a new space within Alma’s existing Dow Science Center.

“This summer we will be creating a digital nature trail at Forest Hill,” says Clark, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology and director of the DDSC. “We will have several locations where students can input data that is then uploaded to the DDSC and made available to science teachers in area schools. The teachers will develop lesson plans based on these stations.”

Plans for the first phase of the project involve the development of three data stations at Forest Hill:

• A focal tree will be wired with sensors that will enable users to capture data relevant to temperature, light changes and biological processes. Schoolchildren interested in tree biology will have access to environmental data on tree activity.

• A time-lapse camera will focus on a turtle basking log. Users will be able to plot data relevant to turtle basking behavior, such as the number of turtles and their movements correlated with temperature and cloud cover.

• An environmental water buoy system with sensors in the Forest Hill pond will capture pH, Co2, light levels and other data relevant to water quality and chemistry.

“We will eventually expand our digital stations to other locations, such as the college’s bog west of campus, but Forest Hill will be the site where elementary and middle school teachers can access digital data for their lesson plans,” says Clark. “The eventual digital stations will support research-based projects for Alma College students.”

The DDSC provides space for Alma College students and faculty to analyze the environmental data. Large 80-inch monitors in the Dow Science Center lobby will provide a consistent visual data feed from Forest Hill Nature Center and other remote sensor projects, including wildlife cameras from national zoos and other locations.

Story published on June 17, 2015