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TRACE goes to Festivals - community outreach activities

By Laura Rubio

As we know, TRACE is a research project focused on climate change in El Yunque. The data we collect has a tangible impact on the people of the surrounding communities and truthfully, all of Puerto Rico. The knowledge that we’re building is in service to our community and it's important that TRACE interacts with those around us. In our efforts to do just that we participate in festivals to share information about our project.

On the 22nd of March we went to El Portal del Yunque to participate in the International Day of Forests Festival. We set up a table and covered it with some of the tools we use on a day to day basis here at TRACE, such as a densiometer, an infrared thermometer, resins, a hobo, and even a point lysimeter we installed in a bucket of soil.

Some pictures of our table set-up at the festival.

It was very fun to interact with the people from other tables who were there to promote their own projects as well as the visitors who came to the festival. One of the TRACE team members gave a short presentation on our project. We set up different activities that people could participate in but there was definitely a crowd favorite. We had the idea to do a “What tree are you” activity using old tree census tags. Pick a tag, read the number, find the species, and we would give you some of the characteristics of the species with a little extra personality thrown in. For example, if a person drew a Cecropia Schreberiana, we would explain how it was a pioneer species that dominated after a hurricane disturbance. We would say that this meant they were a person who came back stronger after times of hardship. If a person drew a Piper Glabrescens, we would say that they thrive off and are very close to their community, since Pipers tend to grow in clusters. It was a fun activity for us and for the public, trying to link plant characteristics to personality traits. A sort of tree horoscope, if you will. The activity ended with a closing ceremony with live Bomba and Jazz performances.

TRACE team-members at the International Day of Forests.

On April 15, we went to downtown Luquillo and participated in the annual Tinglar Festival. It consisted of a very similar set-up with our table placed among other organizations doing environmental work. We prepared our table and got to work. At this festival, there were a lot more children coming up to us and so the activity we had for them was tracing root images with erasable markers. However, we still flexed our environmental astrology muscles and told people their tree species. In between shifts at our table, we walked around Luquillo’s main plaza and saw the different artisans who came to the event (I even bought myself a nice ring and a commemorative t-shirt).

Our table at the Tinglar Festival.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed sharing with our community. Not only did we get to share some of our experiences working at El Yunque but we also listened to other people’s stories about living near it.

These types of activities help the community learn not only about the research being done basically in their backyards, but also about the opportunities for volunteering, jobs, and career development that are open to Puerto Ricans right here on our island.

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