Initial results: Cones

Whether or not it’s possible to track cones on trees using the landscape images we have in Season Spotter is one of the questions that I’ve felt least certain about. It’s definitely possible to see cones on trees if you’re outside and close-up with a tree. And it’s definitely not possible when you’re using satellite images taken from space. But when you can see trees, but they’re not close-up, can you see cones reliably?

The answer from my initial analyses is ‘yes’ – at least for some sites. Here’s one site that has needleleaf trees. It’s a camera overlooking a part of Harvard Forest that has a lot of hemlocks.

harvardhemlock_2013_06_01_120146And here is the Hinton diagram for that site, based on the classifications everyone has made so far on Season Spotter. Again, each square is a day and each row of squares is a year. The bigger the square the more certainty we have about the classification. White, light blue, and dark blue are snowy days. Green squares are non-snowy days without cones. And yellow squares are days when cones are visible. (Red squares are bad images.)

Click to zoom:harvardhemlockAnd close up: harvardhemlock1harvardhemlock2 harvardhemlock3And you can clearly see a string of yellows starting in late October or early November  in 2011. At least one hemlock tree has cones on it for most of that winter.

What do these cones look like? Like this:

harvardhemlock_2011_12_12_120143Those cones in the foreground are probably the ones most people are seeing. But if you look carefully, you can see what look like cones scattered all over the tree in the middle-left part of the image, too.

I know looking for cones has been frustrating for some of you. I hope this shows that your careful work has been paying off. For at least some sites, identifying cones results in a great time series of data that we can only get with your help.

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About Margaret Kosmala

I am an ecologist exploring the complex dynamics of plant and animal systems. I am especially interested in understanding how species communities change over time and how humans impact them.
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