In order to be good stewards of our space in the world, we need to understand how living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) organisms interact with one another. This type of study is known as ecology. It helps us to understand how a population of organisms live with one another within their environment.
Trees provide food and shelter to many living things and summer is the best time to observe the ecosystem of a tree.
Adopt a tree for the year and watch as the seasonal cycles change and animals, birds, and insects come and go. Deciduous trees are wonderful to watch through the seasons, but if you’re in the tropics, choose an evergreen and watch for seasonal changes in its ecosystem.
Mini Tree Ecosystem Nature Study
Indoor Prep Work:
Read or listen to Tree by Patricia Hegarty.
Choose a tree to adopt for the year. It may be a deciduous or evergreen tree. The idea is to observe the ecology of the tree through the seasons. You’ll examine the tree by asking some questions:
- What is laying at the base of the tree?
- What could be hiding or living under the fallen leaves and bark?
- Are there any clues of visiting animals on the trunk?
- Is there any fungus growing on the bark or beneath the tree?
- Do you see any moss, lichen, or liverworts on the tree?
- Are there hollows in the trunk or beneath the tree? What do you think made them?
- Search for small animals on or beneath the bark. Why do you think they live there?
- Are there any mammals living in the tree? Possums or Koalas perhaps?
- Do you notice a nest? What bird does it belong to? What materials were used to create the nest?
- How many different bird species visit the tree? What part of the tree do they feed on or use most?
- Do any moths or butterflies visit the tree? Can you see any caterpillars or cocoons?
- Examine the leaves of the tree. What might be eating them? What may be hiding behind the leaves? Can you find any galls in the leaves?
- What plants are growing under the tree? Now, look further away from the tree. How is it different from under the tree?
- Are there any flowers on your tree? What insects or birds are visiting them? What might they be doing?
Sketch your tree inside your journal. Take note of the shape and the pattern of the bark and leaves. What shade of green are the leaves? Now add your observations to the sketch. You can either write notes or draw what you saw living or visiting the tree. John Muir Laws, encourages naturalists to use these three prompts for deeper nature observation: I notice…, I wonder…, and It reminds me of…Try it!
- Take a photograph of the adopted tree each season and create a collage with your images. What changes do you notice in each image?
- Use The Ecology of a Tree notebook page to show your observations.
- Make a bark rubbing by using wax crayons.
- Create a tree poster or chart to present the information you gained through your observations.
- Take some leaves with galls on them. Place them in a jar with a gauze cover and see what hatches out of them.
So tell me! What did you find living in your tree and what changes did you observe through the seasons? Find me on Facebook or Instagram.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT TREES?
Dig deeper with the Australian Nature Study Guide | Volume 1 | Summer/Autumn.