General FAQs

What is the TREE Program?

The TREE program, or the Trans-Canadian Research and Environmental Education program, is a citizen science program done in partnership between the Mistik Askîwin Dendrochronology Laboratory (MAD Lab) and the Canadian Light Source (CLS). Students collect and send trembling aspen tree cores, soil samples, and a detailed timeline of environmental events in the area to CLS. Information on the age of the trees as well as a chemical analysis on the tree rings and soil is collected from the labs and this data is added to our citizen science database, where anyone can access, compare, and investigate further. Behind the scenes, members of the Research Team are looking into how trembling aspen thrive in environments across Canada and the samples collected by students are helping evolve synchrotron dendrochronology research.

The TREE program is well-suited for classes in environmental sciences, chemistry, biology, land-based education, math, etc. and is adaptable from Grades 6-12. Learning content is shared through various teaching resources that include downloadable modules (with print versions included in the kit), instructional videos, and adaptable lesson plans. TREE is open year-round and participation is free.

What kind of samples do we need to collect?

We require 2 trembling aspen cores and 2 soil samples (Horizon A and B) as well as a constructed timeline of the environmental events in the area you are collected samples from. Module 2 provides instructions on how to construct this timeline and what information is needed. Module 4 provides instructions on how to collect these samples and how to identify if the samples, the tree cores in particular, can collect usable data. If a tree core is rotten or is broken in numerous areas, it will be difficult for the Research Team to collect data and it would be best if the tree cores were collected again, perhaps from a different trembling aspen.

Who should I contact if I am interested in having my class participate?

To participate, please fill out the Registration Form. If you have questions, you can contact the Education Team at the Canadian Light Source either by email (education@lightsource.ca) or by phoning (306) 657-3525.

Are there age restrictions on participation in the TREE program?

No. It is up to the teacher/educator to determine what age is appropriate for his or her students to be involved with TREE. The content is written at a general level but is adaptable, and students in grades 6-12 in various courses have used it. If you are unsure if your class is a good fit for the program, take a look through the modules (especially Module 1 and 6) or contact the CLS Education Team for guidance.

I am a student and want to participate in TREE. How do I get involved?

If you want to get involved with the TREE program, ask your teacher or home-school instructor to get in touch with us. Inform a teacher at your school or professional educator about the program and why you are interested in it. You or your teacher can contact the CLS Education Team by emailing education@lightsource.ca or calling (306) 657-3525 and we can go from there!

Do we have to complete all the modules to partake in the TREE program?

No. The modules were designed to help supplement students’ knowledge when it comes to analyzing the MAD Lab and CLS data. We recommend working through all the modules so that students get a better understanding of their data. However, as the teacher, you can pick and adapt content to suit your students and curricular outcomes. We highly recommend though that students go through Module 2 & 4 as these are the instructions on how to collect necessary environmental history information and collect the samples.

We are interested in having someone from the Research Team connect with us for a talk and/or help us make sense of our data. Would we be able to set something up?

Yes, we would love to connect with your class! We are always looking to engage with students and teachers and love hearing how you incorporated the TREE program. We also want to know if there are any areas you had difficulty with and are happy to help support understanding. If you’re interested in us doing a presentation, please fill out our Presentation Form and contact CLS Education either by email (education@lightsource.ca) or by phoning (306) 657-3525. We will do our best to facilitate your classes’ needs and timeframe.

Booking a Kit

How long is a TREE kit booked for?

TREE kits are booked for approximately 1 week at a time for sampling. If this timeframe does not work for you, be sure to inform the CLS Education Team either when you are filling out the Registration Form, by emailing them (education@lightsource.ca), or by phoning (306) 657-3525.

How do I book a kit?

Fill out the Registration Form and provide as much detail as possible. Also, take a look at our Calendar to see an up-to-date reflection on kit availability and when there are maintenance periods in the labs (when data cannot be processed; kits can still be booked for sampling). If you have any questions, please contact the Education Team at the Canadian Light Source (education@lightsource.ca or by phone 306-657-3525) and we will be happy to help!

When can we get a TREE kit mailed to our school?

We currently have 6 TREE kits that we are mailing out across Canada to facilitate your students to contribute to the research project. When you fill out the Registration Form, please provide details as to when you would ideally like to have the kit (month, date, etc.). Check out the Calendar to see when kits are being booked and contact the CLS Education Team if you have any questions.

As well, kits are booked for 1 week at a time. If you need a kit for a longer time frame, be sure to communicate that to the CLS Education Team. If for whatever reason, we are unable to send you a kit, you are welcome to explore the data we do have. All data is available online all the time for classes to be able to conduct investigations and search for patterns relating environmental history with tree growth (dendrochronology) or chemistry (CLS) data with all our TREE samples.

Looking at the Calendar, CLS will be in a maintenance period when I want to book a TREE kit. Can I still book a kit?

Yes. CLS goes into maintenance periods typically in Spring and Fall each year. During this time, the synchrotron receives upgrades or parts of the machine are fixed. This means that there is no beam available and that the Research Team is not able to collect synchrotron data on TREE samples. However, kits can still be booked during this time and samples taken. Any samples we will receive will still be processed and we will wait for the next available shift of beam we can receive!

This also means that the timing of receiving data may not mesh well with when TREE is incorporated into the class. We encourage you to take a look at our Data pages as you can always use other school’s data to help wrap up a unit/lesson, while you wait for your data.

What happens when we need to extend the time with the TREE kit?

Contact the CLS Education Team (see contact info below) right away if you know you need to extend the time you have a TREE kit. The kit you have might be booked after you and may need to be shipped after your allotted time is up. Check the Calendar to see the most up-to-date scheduling of the kits.

Who pays to ship the kit to us and to the CLS?

The CLS is grateful to have received a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through the PromoScience Program. With this grant, the CLS is able to take care of the costs of shipping and receiving the TREE kits across Canada.

Some of the TREE equipment is damaged. What do we do?

Contact the CLS Education Team right away if any of the TREE equipment is or becomes damaged. We will help you determine what to do next. Contact information can be found at the bottom of the page.

We have our own increment borer. Can we still participate in TREE?

Yes absolutely! You will still need to fill out the Registration Form and once you do, a CLS Education Team member will follow up with you in email. Be sure to mention if you plan on using your own equipment and if a kit is required. We can still send out sample holders for the cores and soil. Just get in touch!

Samples and Data

There are no trembling aspen in my area. What do we do?

Trembling aspen grow across almost all of Canada but there are some areas where they are not common. First, make sure you are able to properly identify a trembling aspen (you could ask for help from community members or review Module 1 for more information). Next, if you still cannot find a trembling aspen, reach out to your networks and have your students do the same. Is there perhaps a family member or friend that someone knows that lives in an area where there are trembling aspen? See if you can work on getting the TREE kit to them and collecting the sample. If you still cannot find a trembling aspen but wish to participate, contact the CLS Education Team by emailing education@lightsource.ca or calling (306) 675-3525 and we can help!

When is data returned?

Returning data depends on the time of year the samples are returned to the CLS. CLS goes into two maintenance periods, typically in Spring and Fall each year. During this time, the Research Team is not able to collect synchrotron data on TREE samples (sampling can still occur!). If samples are returned in these maintenance periods, the Research Team will process samples as soon as the maintenance period is done (and the operation period begins) and we can secure beamtime on IDEAS.

If samples are returned during an operation period, then data will be returned promptly (however, schedules do happen to shift on us!). It takes a few weeks to process samples at MAD Lab and CLS and return data and we do our best to get data to you as quickly as we can.

For more exact timeframes, please contact CLS Education either by email (education@lightsource.ca) or by phoning (306) 657-3525, and they can give you a better estimate relating to the time you are looking to do TREE in your class.

What data will we receive?

You will receive dendrochronology (tree ring) and synchrotron X-ray fluorescence (XRF) dendrochemistry data as well as synchrotron X-ray fluorescence data from the soil samples and a report summarizing the data. Put another way, you will receive information on the presence of elements in the tree rings and soil samples. The data the Research Team sends will be in two forms for you to access: graphs (also known as spectra) showing the elements the IDEAS beamline is able to detect (this is XRF) and in raw data forms which are text files that students can pull into spreadsheets to graph (see our Graphing Instruction for info). All this data is made available online.

Module 6 covers the data you will be receiving in more detail and if you have questions, feel free to reach out the to the Education Team at CLS (contact info below).

What happens to the data after it is collected?

Once the MAD Lab and CLS are able to process and run your samples, a summary report will be sent to you (through the teacher contact) along with the graphs and raw data collected by the Research Team. The timing of this processing is dependent on many things including COVID-19 restrictions and beamtime/maintenance cycles of the research labs. We work as quickly as we can but cannot guarantee results within a specific course.

Data is posted online in our growing Data pages of our website. Data is made available so that everyone can access and compare samples. You also have access to each school’s raw data if you want to take a turn at making graphs.

We encourage you to take a look at the graphs and compare chemistry to growth to the environmental history of each sample. What does the data suggest? Can you identify patterns? Are the results what you expected? What do the results even mean? These are the same questions members of the Research Team are asking as they work on the science research aspect of this program. Check out the Section 6.4 page for some ideas and Module 6 for help on how to interpret the data.

How accurate is the data?

Part of the TREE project and the graduate research that is going on behind the scenes is aimed at determining how accurate and quantitative the data collected using the synchrotron techniques is. It is still a work in progress so this data should be considered qualitive and can be used to look for trends of variations that correlate to other identified environmental factors.

We noticed a mistake in the data. What do we do?

Mistakes happen as the Research Team is using the samples collected by students to help refine and further the synchrotron research on dendrochronology. We continue to evolve our processes overtime but sometimes mistakes happen. If you notice an error, please contact the CLS Education Team either by email (education@lightsource.ca) or by phoning (306) 657-3525, sharing what you found, and we will get to making TREE better!

Are we allowed to share our data with others?

Absolutely! Sharing information is key to the scientific research of the TREE program. Tell your school about what was learned by your class, tell your community, your local government, anyone who may be interested! Spread the news about the TREE program to family and friends and you could even tag the CLS Education Facebook page (@Education CLS) or the Canadian Light Source Twitter account (@canlightsource).

Contact CLS Education

Email: education@lightsource.ca

Phone: (306) 657-3525