U of M: Volunteers Needed to Watch Trees at Como Lake

Posted at: 03/28/2013 5:45 PM
Updated at: 03/29/2013 6:22 AM
By: Naomi Pescovitz

Minnesota's lakes are a precious natural resource, but nature itself might be damaging Como Lake in St. Paul. That's where a group of University of Minnesota researchers and the public can help.
U of M ecologists are looking for 25 volunteers in the Falcon Heights and Como Park neighborhoods to monitor trees for buds and leaves.

"Their only commitment is really 2 to 3 minutes every two days," said Chris Buyarski, Junior Scientist at the U of M.

Residents will pick trees on their streets or regular walks and collect information on paper or even iPhones.

"Once we know when the trees are changing color, then we know they are about to drop their leaves, and once they drop their leaves, they end up on the street gutter," Buyarski said.

"The water and cars driving over them break them down, and the nutrients come out of those leaves into the water that then flows into the lakes," said U of M Ecologist Dr. Rebecca Montgomery.

Excess nutrients like phosphorus can lead to algae blooms in the lake.

"The lake turns pea-soup green, late in the summer and can be kind of smelly and stinky," Montgomery said.

The researchers are hoping to monitor a minimum of 50 trees.

"If we can understand when a particular species of tree is losing its leaves then we can tell city planners and street sweepers when to actually come out," Buyarski said.

Click here to sign up to volunteer.