Trees are a critical part of our environmental ecosystem and biodiversity. By monitoring their health throughout the UK, it’s possible to obtain early warning signs of pests and disease. This can help prevent losing or having to cull entire tree species avoiding a repeat of a situation we faced with Dutch Elm Disease.
Forest Research, a research agency of the Forestry Commission, exists to ensure this does not happen again. Scientists throughout the UK monitor and track tree health to support pest and disease management.
What is Observatree?
Ten years ago, a team of environmental specialists wanted an answer to a question…..
“Could Forest Research and partners attract and engage a large group of volunteers across the UK with a shared interest in tree health? And would they freely give up their time to help us develop a new UK tree health early warning system?”
The answer was a resounding yes and Observatree began. The message was out there, and the volunteer community grew quickly. It became apparent that a place would be needed to log this vital information, as well as save and share images data with the wider Forest Research community – TreeAlert.
TreeAlert is a reporting tool that enables users to submit reports online. Rowe became involved in 2019 and were tasked with updating the system to improve its usability and functionality, using modern Cloud services.
Both Observatree volunteers and Forest Research scientists alike can now log information easily from a mobile device with added features such as, simple image upload and ‘use my location’ to speed up reporting and improve accuracy of data.
Users can log multiple reports, view previous reports and woodland owners can even request diagnosis of anything suspicious from the Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service, staffed by Forest Research scientists who use another solution developed by Rowe – the Tree Health System.
This army of keen volunteers who give up their time can report information for any tree related pests and diseases they find; citizen science at its finest.
The TreeAlert and Tree Health System now forms a crucial part of Forest Research’s toolkit, and the Observatree project goes from strength to strength.
All of us at Rowe would like to extend our congratulations to the team at Forest Research and the Obvservatree community on 10 incredible years! You’re making a huge difference to the welfare of our environment across the UK which is more important than ever!
If you have a passion for the environment, and are interested in getting involved, head over to Observatree for more information, or read some of the highlights from the last ten years.