Want to contribute to a citizen science program looking at how trees interact with different types of environments across Canada?


Students from across Canada are invited to be part of the Trans-Canadian Research and Environmental Education (TREE) Project. TREE is a citizen science program done in partnership between the CLS and the Project Partners (MAD Lab). Students can help researchers study how trembling aspen trees thrive in different environments across Canada. Sampling kits are lent out and we cover the costs of shipping.

High School, Middle Years, or Adult Basic Ed.

Flexible Timeframes

Land-Based, Distance Learning

Data from the dendrochronology lab and the synchrotron is collected from these samples and is added to our citizen science database, where anyone can access, compare, and investigate further! This program is well-suited for classes in environmental sciences, chemistry, biology, land-based education, math, and more. Check out our Teaching Resources section to see options on how your class can engage. Participation is open year-round and can easily fit into a lesson, unit, or classroom field-trip.

NSERC (logo in image) supports Student Programs and shipping of kits with the CLS Education Team.The Canadian Light Source is proud to offer the TREE Program and we acknowledge the support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) PromoScience to make this possible.



All the information shared below, including the registration form, data, and downloadable resources, can be found on our TREE website. You can also check out the TREE Overview Document for more information.

TREE Website

Project Partners

The TREE Program is a full partnership between CLS Education and the Mistik Askîwin Dendrochronology Laboratory (MAD Lab; logo in image).

The CLS is excited to be working in partnership with the Mistik Askîwin Dendrochronology Laboratory (MAD Lab) in delivering the TREE program. The MAD Lab was launched in the spring of 2014 after moving to Saskatoon from Mount Allison University. The MAD Lab was formed to investigate tree ring related research questions in many areas of Canada and now through the tree ring chronologies they have created, the MAD Lab is able to understand the climate history of various location, date historical artifacts, and investigate how environmental contamination from humans has changed over time. Visit MAD Lab's website to learn more.

The MAD Lab is lead by Dr. Colin Laroque (shown in the next image, top left), a professor in Soil Science and School of Enviroment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan. Colin is registered Métis and shares his knowledge of trees through his ongoing research and conversations with trees. Check out his interview with the Climate Atlas of Canada where he speaks more on his unique perspective as a Métis scholar. 

With the TREE program, MAD Lab is investigating the adaptability of trembling aspen (Populus termuloides) to toxins in environments across Canada. Trembling aspen are quite abundant throughout Canada, although not all of Canada, and they tolerate, even thrive, with much higher levels of toxins in their soil than other species of trees. They can potentially be used to remediate contaminated sites. In order to study this, a large and varied sample size of this species is required and this is where students from across Canada can help!

How It Works

Listed below is a general outline of activities for participating in TREE. Depending on your level of engagement (see next section for info), this time frame may be shorter/longer. With participation open year-round, you can start these activities at any time. Note though that there are certain times in the calendar year when data cannot be collected at the synchrotron; samples can still be collected and sent in! The Education Team is available to clarify and assist with any aspect of the program, just get in touch.

Students from La Ronge, SK / Treaty 6 and the Traditional Homeland of the Métis, using the borer to get TREE samples.
  • Teacher browses TREE learning material, data, engagement options
  • Teacher fills in registration form
  • CLS Education Team member contacts teacher
  • TREE kit is booked
  • Class sent kit with tools for sample collection
  • Students research events in the sampling area and create a detailed timeline of events
  • Students collect samples from trembling aspen and nearby soil from sampling area 
  • Samples, sample form, and the timeline sent to CLS and the MAD Lab for data analysis
  • Data is shared with class once processing is complete - this time frame is unpredictable - a report is provided as it becomes available
Data from samples is then shared with the citizen science database where students can analyze and compare their results with other classes across Canada!


Teaching Resources

Students crowding around Dr. Colin Laroque at MAD Lab, learning about how tree cores are mounted to holders to collect dendrochronology data.

To help support collection of the samples and time frames for student understanding, various resources have been made with teaching time frames in mind. Regardless of stream, participation in TREE requires collection of samples and a timeline completed, which instructions are provided in our TREE kits. TREE is a great cross-curricular project as it takes on an interdisciplinary approach and is adaptable to connect with curriculum across many subjects in Grades 6-12. See an example of curricular connections with Grade 8 curricula across Canada. How will TREE connect to your class?

Check out our streams below and explore what resources we have to offer. Also included in our supplemental resources are lesson plans and you can find videos that provide instruction and background knowledge throughout all the resources. We also continue to develop our resources and look to incorporate more Indigenous Ways of Knowing and meaningful content.

Engagement Streams:

Looking to just participate in the Citizen Science aspect? Our Sampling Guide provides all the necessary information for classes to go out on the land, collect trembling aspen tree cores, soil samples, and complete a timeline of events for the sampling area. These samples help contribute to our TREE database which researchers from MAD Lab have access to!

With this option, sampling takes 1-2 weeks and the samples are sent back in the TREE Kit.

Want students to do a more in-depth project? But how to connect to TREE? Why not take a look at our Teacher Inquiry Guide which provides suggestions on how your TREE participation can help support student inquiry projects. Inquiry pairs nicely with the scientific method, the same method researchers from our labs are following! Have students ask their own research question and expand their knowledge with the help of TREE!

With this option, samples are collected and students' projects can take anywhere from weeks to months to complete.

What kind of content can you expect to find in TREE? In our supplemental resource modules, we provide content where students can learn about the life and nutrient cycles of trees, connecting to their communities, applying that knowledge to decipher their data from the tree rings, and learning how soil plays a role. Choose which modules you want to use and incorporate print or online versions in your class!

With this option, sampling is completed and teachers decide on which content to incorporate into the class and for how long.


Participation in this program requires that you commit to helping your students:

  • Construct a timeline on the various impacts in the environment in the area you are sampling,
  • Collecting and sending to us at least 2 trembling aspen tree cores with associated soil samples according to instruction, and
  • Sending the kit, samples, a sample form, and timeline back to us. 

Kits are booked for approximately 1 week at a time for sampling. Registration is open all year but there may be certain times that are better for collecting (winter does pose some challenges). Also, be aware that synchrotron data can only be collected when there is beam available and this will impact processing of samples. We process samples sent to us as quickly as we are able to, but cannot guarantee a specific timeframe. Contact us if you have questions and/or keep an eye on the TREE calendar or operations schedule for when data can be collected.