Morton Arboretum scientists and NASA researchers are unveiling results from a study in Lisle, Ill. For a week in September the scientists and researchers worked side by side at Lisle’s Morton Arboretum uncovering the mystery of tree biomechanics. That is, essentially, what makes trees stand, and what makes them fall. The goal of the research was to test if the technology used in Space Shuttle exploration safety testing is a useful research tool when applied to the biomechanics of trees.
Gary Watson, senior scientist at the Morton Arboretum says the research has brought information that tree scientists and arborists can use to identify trees that could pose threats to public safety. “At this point the stereophotogrammetry is a research tool that helps us to understand trees so that with a better understanding of the tree itself, we can answer those very questions. Arborists can go out and examine a tree with having learned what we learned.”
Matt Melish, an aerospace engineer with NASA who also helped in the research, agrees. “We ultimately may be able to use it for public safety,” Melish said. “It will have a huge economic and infrastructure benefit if the power companies can learn to utilize this to mitigate some of these big events.”
To perform the research, crews used the fast-firing pixel images from a camera to detect "hot spots" on the tree where damage has been caused. They capture the injured areas in motion-picture imagery, allowing scientists to zero in on tree deformation.