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E-tree with solar leaves heads to Glastonbury

Glastonbury festival-goers will be able to see an e-tree as part of a ‘Hidden wonders of the Woodland’ themed stand at the world-famous festival.

The e-tree, produced by Dr Andy Smith Senior Lecturer in Forestry at Bangor University in conjunction with Nigel Fisher, Conservator of Wytham Woods, and his team at Oxford University,  will be part of the ‘Sex & Bugs & Rock 'n Roll’ road show dreamed up by researchers at Lancaster University and championed by the British Ecological Society as a way of bringing science to the public.

Outside the roadshow, the e-tree with solar panels for leaves will demonstrate in real-time how trees take up and store carbon from the atmosphere. Inside, ‘The Hidden Wonders of Woodlands’ will give people the chance to see woods in a new light. From 21st June, visitors will be able to discover unusual woodland ladybirds and astonishing fungi while playing some entertaining games, or find about the bacteria on their festival kit

Dr Andy Smith of Bangor University’s School of Environment, Natural Resources & Geography, said:

“Most of us understand that trees take up carbon from the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, but it is difficult to imagine exactly how much carbon is actually taken up and stored. The idea behind the e-tree is to demonstrate in real-time the rate at which a tree takes up carbon under different light conditions. The e-tree has solar “leaves” that are connected to a real-time solar “monitor”, which will show festival goers how much carbon would be taken up by the “leaves” and stored in the biomass (body) of the e-tree. The e-tree works by measuring the output of the solar leaves (i.e. how much light the leaves receive) and then calculates the rate of carbon absorption using a simple relationship between leaf area and photosynthesis (i.e. light absorption is related to leaf photosynthesis, which affects how much carbon is taken up). I hope that the e-tree will be a fun and engaging way of demonstrating to festival-goers at Glastonbury the role forests can have in mitigating climate change.”

Over the years, thousands of festival-goers have encountered some of the intriguing ecology showcased in the pop-up science tent, from moths with rock star names to glow-in-the-dark wormeries providing a glimpse of life below ground.

Lancaster University’s Dr Emma Sayer leads the project. She said:

“Science shouldn’t be dry and boring - it should be exciting. We do research because we’re fascinated by nature, so we want to share our curiosity with others and let people find out about ecology on their own terms. We try to create displays and activities at our stall that show visitors things they wouldn’t otherwise get to see, like our e-Tree, for example.

"We want to remind people that science involves curious people finding out about the world, and there’s a bit of a scientist in all of us.”

The ‘Sex & Bugs & Rock 'n Roll’ road show will make the mammoth road trip to the UK’s most iconic music festival, accompanied by bees, dung beetles, worms and ladybirds, where they will set up shop to talk to the festival-going public about the Hidden Wonders of Woodlands.  


Sex & Bugs & Rock 'n Roll will be in the Green Futures Field at Glastonbury from 21-25 June 2017. 

Publication date: 15 June 2017