Associate Professor of Astronomy Amy Lovell talks about “Tree Canopy.”
Sometimes it helps to look at things from a new perspective. You are standing on the Celestial Spheres plaza of the Bradley Observatory and Delafield Planetarium. Look down. If the black outer circle in the design of the plaza represents the size of the Sun, then the blue circles around the periphery indicate the relative sizes of the eight planets, and the red polished semicircles are the relative sizes of their orbits. This plaza helps us see and understand the true scale of our solar system.
Now look out at the woods surrounding Gellerstedt Field. Usually we have to look up at treetops, if we notice them at all. But from this ridge, you can see the tree canopy from a different perspective. In the last two decades, scientists using advanced tree climbing techniques, cranes, and “canopy rafts” have found that the treetops some assumed were wastelands — nothing more than leaves and branches — support diverse ecosystems. A husband and wife research team in California, for example, climbs the world’s tallest trees and has discovered lush gardens of shrubs, ferns, lichens, and other plants thriving 350 feet off the ground. Other canopy scientists around the world continue to identify new animal and plant species.
Look again at the trees across the field. It may be difficult to imagine climbing into the crowns of those trees. But Atlanta is a center for recreational tree climbing, and with the help of Tree Climbers International, Agnes Scott students have climbed trees just as tall!