2018/19 Trinity College Trees Project

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root

Early in January of this year the Trinity College Trees team (Taylor, Hackett and Hassett) in conjunction with Colin Reid and Dr. Conor Buckley of TCD initiated an ambitious new study on the two large Oregon Maple trees in main College Square.  Both sibling trees were estimated to be over 170 years old and were reported to be suffering some difficulties with fungal infection and lack of adequate water to support their huge structure. 

This 2018 project proposed to build on the research and success of their 2017 project, while focusing on the conservation research and efforts to keep these trees healthy.

During the initial phase of the project the team took more scanning electron microscopic images of the Oregon Maples.  Their aim was to make visible fascinating microscopic elements of these two majestic trees. This allowed for an unique way of viewing and engaging with the trees and their conservation in a busy urban setting.  The team were pleased with the results and over the next few months Hassett devised a plan to create a series of site specific art works to install in both Oregon Maples.  The exhibition and series of performance art works were due to launch during September 2018.

Unfortunately in early June 2018 one of 170 year old majestic Oregon Maples collapsed, splitting into many pieces on the lawn of Main square.  The second sister Oregon Maple tree had to be felled two months later over rising public safety concerns.  It was a very emotional time for staff, students, past pupils and the general public as these two trees had been a very important part of the fabric of Trinity College life for such a long period of time.  

The sudden absence of the two trees left the team at a loss on how to proceed with the project.  Following on from the trees demise the team spent a few months investigating what happened all of a sudden that made the them become so unstable and finally leading one to collapse.  In fact tree surveys taken about a year before showed that the trees were in trouble but not critically so.

Various samples were taken from the remains of the two majestic but fragile Oregon Maple Trees in College Square.  The team sought to explore the structural integrity of the wood samples. After reviewing the scientific and conservations reports it was concluded that both trees just didn’t have enough water in their systems to keep them upright.  They had become so brittle and lacking in water that many of the bolts of the cable bracing system helping to support them had pulled through the thick limbs.  

After a thought provoking collaborative conversation with David Hackett we realised that the two children trees, descendant from the fallen trees and also sited on campus, were also suffering, although to a lesser extent, of drought.  The team decided to re-focus the direction of the project onto the two remaining Oregon Maples in Trinity College Dublin.  They have also narrowed their focus of exploration to the scientific and conservation research and possible future outcomes of the lack of sufficient water in the Oregon Maples of Trinity College Dublin.  

After successfully getting an extension to the project deadline they now plan to launch in Spring 2019.  Proposed artistic responses will include a months display of new artworks installed in both trees, a series of live performances and indoor exhibition on the TCD campus.

Current artistic inspirations include collaborative work on a bio-plastic art material with Conor Buckley and the development of a device that will be able to record the inner sounds of the Oregon Maples drinking water in conjunction with Jeffrey Roe. Other work in progress include the development of drawings on hand made paper using materials gathered from the fallen trees.

2016/17 Trinity College Trees Project

Trinity Trees Team 2 at PROBE at TCD

The 2016/17 Trinity College Trees Project, Making Visible the Invisible, celebrated scientific, conservation and artistic research into the physiology of eight trees situated on the main campus of Trinity College Dublin.

Over a period of eighteen months TCD staff  Professor David Taylor,  David Hackett,  Clodagh Dooley and Olivia Hassett meet regularly to collaborate on this ambitious project. Two sets of Scanning Electron microscopic sampling and imaging were undertaken to reflect the changing seasons and conditions during the project.

In response to the collaborative research and microscopic imagery collected the artist created a series of site specific innovative art works, which were installed in the eight trees throughout the campus. A series of performances by Hassett with the Oregon Maple in the main square formed part of PROBE European Researchers night event September 29th 2017 launching the exhibition to much acclaim.

The Trinity College Trees exhibition was supported by a series of guided walks while also offering a self guided walk and supporting audio piece detailing information on each tree and the inspiration behind the installed artworks.

This blog outlines the project background information, research and inspiration behind these works.

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Reintroducing David Taylor

DTaylor

David Taylor holds the position of Professor of Materials Engineering at Trinity College. His field of expertise is Biomedical Engineering: the application of scientific principles to the study of the human body.

His research work aims to understand how Nature has evolved materials for structural purposes and to learn from Nature in the development of new engineering solutions.

His research interests include failure analysis of engineering materials and components. Component design and materials selection. Forensic engineering. Bioengineering, especially the strength and fracture of medical devices, bone and other body tissues.

Sound recording

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David Taylor and Olivia Hassett visited CONTACT Studio today to record the sound piece that will accompany the self guided walk to the various trees and artworks.  David Taylor is the narrator on the sound piece and Gerry Horan recorded and edited the work.

After a few hours, lots of water and a few spoons of honey to soothe David’s throat we completed the recording. We look forward to launching this sound piece at the opening of the exhibition on Friday September 29th.

A special thanks to Gerry Horan who runs CONTACT studio in RUA RED. CONTACT Studio is a professionally run and equipped recording studio based in South Dublin County. The studio is a South Dublin County Council’s Arts Office initiative and is subsidised to encourage artists, youth groups and community groups in the county to record and archive their work.

gerry horan contact studio

Science Notes: Autumn Cherry Blossom

SCIENCE NOTES: AUTUMN CHERRY BLOSSOM

These scanning electron microscope pictures show a tiny part of a flower from the autumn-flowering cherry tree. It’s one of the stamens: the small round shapes are pollen grains.

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Pollen carries the reproductive cells (gametes) produced in the male parts of flowering plants. It may be annoying to those of us who suffer from hay fever and other allergic reactions to airbourne pollen, but it’s vital for many plants to spread pollen around so that the male cells will encounter female cells in the pistils of other plants.

There are many different types of pollen, and the size and shape of pollen grains varies a lot from plant to plant, so the microscopic analysis of pollen can be very useful in forensics and archaeology. This SEM image shows some of the weird and wonderful shapes of different pollens (the colours are artificial – SEM doesn’t do colour but the colour can be added later just for fun):

Autumn Cherry Flowers fig2

Source: Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility, Dartmouth College [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bees and other insects eat pollen: for them it’s a vital food source. Lately some people have been selling bee pollen for human consumption. It probably won’t do you any harm (unless you’re allergic to it of course, in which case it might kill you) but there’s no scientific evidence that it will do you any good either, so I’m going to keep away from it.

David