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Measuring tree decay with sound
Research in the Gilbert lab, UCSC

Diseased or rotten trees can look healthy from the outside while inside they are teeming with infection and may spread it to others in the forest community. Using specialized equipment (sonic tomography) we direct sound waves through individual trees and measure the amount of time it takes for the sound to pass through the tree. The data is then converted into a visual density color map that gives us a picture of what the tissue looks like inside of the tree, allowing us to discern if it is diseased, and how severe the damaged tissue is. The sound images make really beautiful color maps of the inside of tree tissue with the health of the tree translated into different colors. This research contributes to a larger study to determine how disease might actually help to maintain the high number of tree species in tropical forests. 


 This work was part of a graduate student research position through my advisor Greg Gilbert's Environmental Studies research lab at UC Santa Cruz.

Press release:
Gilbert, G., [et al., including Harrower, J.,], 2016. Use of acoustic tomography to detect and quantify wood decay in living trees. Applications in Plant Sciences
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