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Research uncovers virtual treasure trove


Historical Records Clay Word (left) is among the undergraduate students working with Research Associate David Walker (right) to compile uncovered records into a database for use in improving forest resource assessments.

Aug. 15, 2015 – Research led by Associate Professor Phil Radtke has “rediscovered” a virtual treasure trove of historical measurements of standing and felled trees, including volume, biomass, carbon contents, and component measurements, as well as root dimensions, weights, and chemical contents. Records from over 140,000 trees have been recovered from files that had been largely forgotten on old computer tapes or paper files tucked away in storage facilities, research labs, libraries, offices, and field stations around the United States.

Measurements recorded back to 1898 have been located and preserved, with efforts underway to compile them into a nationally consistent database for use in improving assessments of the nation’s forest resources. A cadre of students is working closely with Research Associate David Walker, with financial support from the U.S. Forest Service and forest industry, to recover legacy data using document scanning, optical character recognition, and old-fashioned keyboard data entry to find and recover as many of these valuable records as possible before they disappear altogether.

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