Exploring Boston's Urban Forest

Urban forests are more than pretty: they mitigate climate change, improve psychological health, filter pollutants, and increase oxygen levels.

Cities are made up of buildings and streets, but between and among human structures are thousands of trees that make up the urban forest. Urban forests offer more than a respite from city life: they mitigate the risk of climate change, improve psychological health, filter pollutants, and produce oxygen.

Earthwatch is collaborating with the arborist of the City of Cambridge, Chelsea Department of Public Works, the City of Somerville, and the City of Boston, to collect data to study and protect the thousands of trees that make up these city's critically important urban forests.

You'll be trained in techniques for identifying species, measuring and observing individual tree samples, and uploading data via mobile apps. During the course of the day you'll work in groups, exploring Cambridge, Chelsea, Somerville, or Boston’s urban forest and collecting data on the health, growth patterns, and impact on buildings and streets of individual trees.

You'll help build a growing database of information needed to understand how trees contribute to cities, how they might help to improve a city’s resiliency in the face of a changing environment, and what they need to survive and thrive.

Why the Research is Important

As cities grow, urban green space declines, leading to negative impacts on environmental quality and human well-being.

Today, more than 80% of the U.S. population lives in urban areas, and this number continues to rise. As cities grow, urban green space declines, leading to negative impacts on environmental quality and human well-being.

Although urban trees offer great benefits, they can also cause problems. Roots undermine sidewalks, leaves create slippery hazards, and branches fall on power lines. Their impact on the public makes trees an integral and active part of urban planning for most, if not all, cities and municipalities. Little research has been conducted on urban forests compared with research on typical forests, making Earthwatch's Urban Resiliency Program an exciting and significant development.

As a volunteer, you'll pioneer the work of Earthwatch's Urban Resiliency Program. In Cambridge, Chelsea, Somerville, or Boston, we will be comparing our findings with those of a study done five years ago or creating a base dataset to compare to future data collection. The objective of the project is to draw statistical comparisons over time that will allow city officials to relate changes in the urban forest (tree species and size) to changes in environmental conditions (road traffic density, height of surrounding buildings, and surface composition).

The information you collect will support improved management of urban trees and provide data to underscore the positive impact the urban forest has on the environment and local community.

Be more than a tourist

Experience hands-on science in some of the most astounding locations in the world.
Meet a community of like-minded travelers and return home with stories filled with adventure.

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Earthwatch depends on donations—above and beyond what we raise from volunteers who participate on our expeditions—in order to deliver our global conservation mission. In fact, volunteer contributions provide only half of the total resources Earthwatch needs to sustain over 40 field research expeditions, a wide variety of educational programs, corporate sustainability trainings, and more each year.