A local science group has been collecting ash since 2019. Now they need “citizen scientists” to spread it across Muskoka.
The Friends of the Muskoka Watershed (FOTMW) will provide volunteers with a bucket of filtered and chemically analysed wood ash. The citizen scientists will take the ash to a set of two or more trees of the same species, roughly the same size and age.
Ash will be spread around the base of some of the trees, while the others will serve as a control group. Volunteers are then tasked with tracking the trees’ health over at least a year.
Katie Paroschy, Citizen Science Coordinator for FOTMW, says initial studies from Trent University and other institutions have shown the ash to help with plant health.
“Due to historic acid rain and logging practices, our forests, and actually our entire ecosystems, are low in calcium,” says Paroschy. “The ash just puts that calcium back. What it’s shown is it’s woken up the trees. They’re growing faster, they’re growing bigger, and for maple trees sap production has increased quite significantly.”
Paroschy says participants will take soil, leaf, and needle samples from each tree, height and diameter measurements for the trees and their canopies, as well as photos.
“The idea is, we’ll get a good understanding of how ash at a large geographic scale, in different soil types and environment, helps our forests,” says Paroschy. “I’m sure as you know, if you’re helping the trees and the forest, you’re helping everything else. You’re helping the soil, eventually you’re helping the water, the animals. It’s all connected.”
According to Paroschy, they’re hoping to start the ash-spreading initiative at the start of spring. She says they’re looking for anyone who has legal access to trees, whether that is property owners, community groups, camps, or municipalities.
“There’s a lot of different benefits to being a citizen scientist, to take ownership of our watershed,” says Paroschy. “We all live in the watershed, we all want to contribute to helping the environment, helping where we live, so this is one way people can actually, physically do that. It’s also fun, a reason to get outside. Learn about trees, learn about nature, have some fun times together.”
Those interested can sign up or ask questions by emailing Paroschy at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling FOTMW at 705-640-0948. Paroschy says a website is in the works to make it easier to sign up.
The organization will hold drives for donated fireplace ash on Feb. 19 and March 19 at the Rosewarne Landfill.