What is TREE ?

The Trans-Canadian Research and Environmental Education (TREE) project is a citizen science program connecting students to scientific research on trembling aspen trees, happening at the Mistik Askîwin Dendrochronology Laboratory (MAD Lab) and the Canadian Light Source (CLS). You can learn more about each organization on the Who We Are page or checking out the TREE Overview document for full details.

From a scientific perspective with TREE, trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) are a species of tree that is abundant throughout most of Canada. They also tolerate, even thrive, with much higher levels of toxins in their soil than most other species of trees and can potentially be used to remediate contaminated sites. The MAD Lab, in collaboration with the CLS IDEAS Beamline Scientist, is interested in researching:

  • what toxins are present in trembling aspens and how much these trees can tolerate and still thrive;

  • if location or geography affect the accumulation of toxins;

  • if these factors can be related to climactic or human events in the time span of the tree; and

  • how to develop this new cutting-edge method of applying synchrotron techniques to dendrochronology research areas.

To validate the technique and conduct such research, a large number of samples with historical information from a large geographic area is required to investigate these questions.

From an educational perspective, learning about the life and nutrient cycles of trees, nutrients in soil, and tracking effects on trees over time provides a wealth of opportunity for student education. The TREE program connects with curriculum across several subject areas and grade levels. It provides an interdisciplinary learning experience for students as they investigate:

  • trees and how they grow including the nutrient cycles and cells;

  • the effects of environmental conditions and the climate on soils and trees;

  • economic and industrial history of their community related to the timeline of tree growth;

  • connecting to local knowledge related to the trees, history, and the environment;

  • math and chemistry analyses as well as graphing as it relates to their data; and

  • many more possibilities for expanding knowledge.

Teachers crowding around Dr. Colin Laroque at MAD Lab, learning about how tree cores are mounted to holders to collect dendrochronology data.

The CLS Education Team helps deliver these resources as well as provide access to a beamline for spectroscopy (chemistry) experiments. If you are interested in registering, please fill out our Registration Form or contact the CLS Education Team (information in the footer) for more information! We welcome the opportunity to work with you!

There is no cost to participating thanks to the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) PromoScience Grant.


Phone: (306) 966-1298

Email: colin.laroque@usask.ca

CLS Education Team

Phone: (306) 657-3525

Email: education@lightsource.ca