Kicking off the Boulder Apple Tree Project POP-CUREs!

Darcy Traynor and Brandon Sandoval, interns from Front Range Community College are preparing tree bark samples for initial testing of the fire blight experiment.

Darcy Traynor and Brandon Sandoval, interns from Front Range Community College are preparing tree bark samples for initial testing of the fire blight experiment.

As August passes by and Summer begins to come to a close, the Boulder Apple Tree Team is getting ready for the most exciting time of the year, Fall!

Fall is when apples ripen, leaves change color and students come back to CU Boulder to begin a new term and share their summer adventures.  This year, preparations for Fall are particularly exciting since the beginning of the new school year on August 26th will mark the first day of BATP’s new POP-CURE courses which will be offered to Ecology and Evolutionary Biology entering freshmen.  POP-CUREs or Power of Place Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences, capitalize on the philosophy that learning is enriched when it is grounded in experiences and projects that serve the local community and integrate aspects of an area’s culture, history, and citizenship into the classroom environment. They also emphasize the power of conducting novel scientific research that is relevant and useful to communities beyond the classroom. Our POP-CURE courses do just that!

This year, graduate students Chirs Smith, Deidre Jaeger, and Irfanul Alam are heading up preparation of the POP-CUREs.  The students have put their own spin on each POP-CURE class, designing each around research topics that are of interest to themselves and the broader community. In Project Gene Chris will teach students about the genetics of Apple trees. Students will learn how to sample leaves, extract DNA, and examine specific aspects of the DNA to determine the identities of the historic trees in and around Boulder. Project Gradient, led by Deidre, will explore how urban aspects affect trees. This year, Deidre will be examining how the common Boulder tree pest, fire-blight, affects Boulder’s apples and spreads from tree to tree. In Project Leaf, Irfan will examine questions related to tree phenology - when leaf color change and leaf drop occurs - as related to elements of the changing Boulder climate. Notably, POP-CURE development efforts are assisted by a variety of community members and EBIO faculty who have lent their expertise to the project. Our community partners include Eric Johnson of Widespread Malus, Lauren Kelso at Growing Gardens, Gayle Volk at Colorado State University, Ryan Graden, and others.

What do we hope students get from these courses? Many of our students at CU Boulder come from disparate areas around Colorado and often hail from out-of-state. When they come to CU, they often engage in the CU Boulder community by attending sporting events, getting to know their classmates, and engaging in the great breadth of classes the university has to offer. However, they rarely interact with the local community or come to understand the local culture and how it contributes to their unique college experience. We are hoping to help these students better understand the community, and more importantly, how they can contribute to the community as budding scientists! Research has shown that CURE courses help students feel a sense of project ownership, excitement, responsibility, and scientific identity as they engage in real research that has potential to make an impact. These aspects increase students persistence in science and their motivation to contribute to both scientific and local communities using their new-found science skills.

So, as the semester draws near, be on the lookout for CU Boulder students out and about in your neighborhood. You may even run into Front Range Community College Interns Alexandra Harris, Brandon Sandoval, Vanessa Arnold, Alli Garduno, and Darcy Traynor as they help our team to prepare for the Fall. If you see someone staring fixedly at an Apple tree or toting around a measuring tape and clipboard, don't hesitate to ask them if they are part of the BATP team and chat with them about their role in the project! Finally, if you are interested in volunteering to find and document new apple trees across Boulder, consider signing up for the Apple Tree Blitz to be held September 21st:


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