Citizens can social distance while helping science

By Nina Jungman

Chris Baraloto

For those looking to get outdoors and still abide to social distancing, the FIU Institute of Environment’s Grove ReLeaf program offers a great opportunity to get some fresh air, learn about your neighborhood and contribute to scientific data collection.

Researchers at the International Center for Tropical Botany (ICTB) at the Kampong are seeking participants who want to contribute to help map and monitor trees across the Miami area as part of the project.

Participation only requires a smartphone or tablet and an internet connection. Visit Each colored dot represents a tree that has been identified and measured by the center’s partners or scientists. Some trees have measured “ecobenefits” which help explain the values provided by each tree.

When a tree in a person’s neighborhood is missing from the map, that’s where volunteers can help. To join the project, volunteers can email to receive a log-in and instructions on how to measure trees and collect data. Those interested in learning botany will have the opportunity to review basic plant identification skills remotely with one of the center’s scientists.

Working on Grove ReLeaf can help a person stay active, spend more time outside and keep children entertained — all while practicing social distancing.

The data collected from this program will help scientists calculate concrete values associated with Miami’s urban tree canopy, identify threats to the canopy and understand the impacts of different management options.