Computer Model, Pollen & Urban Forestry Mashup at GSEF

Urban forest management and related tree management (arboriculture) are usually focused on the macro scale… the tree or group of trees, a tree part, or maybe a defect.  Although cognizant of the less visible components of these sciences we seldom pursue the microscopic on a day-to-day basis.


So when judges for the 2014 Georgia Urban Forestry Innovation Award at the Georgia Science & Engineering Fair (GSEF) in Athens read “Adhesion of Pollen Grains to Surfaces: Computer Model” by Shwetha Mudalegundi (South Forsyth High School) they approached with interest… but cautiously!

Shwetha’s project, in the Computer Science category, investigated the physical and functional characteristics of pollen in angiosperms and gymnosperms and then developed a model that could predict (or rank) pollen adhesion to surfaces (like your car’s windshield) based on the physical characteristics.

Her findings: angiosperms (like oak) adhere more readily than gymnosperms (like pines).

While this project is several steps away from practical application by urban forest managers we can see implications for this type of modelling that include:

  • Heightened awareness of pollen variability in species
  • Tree species selection
  • Human health (pollen allergies)  issues
  • Tree genetics and development of cultivars with “designer” pollen
  • Facility management

A next step would be to model specific, common urban tree species to investigate the variation in adhesion within the broad classification of angiosperms and gymnosperms.  Coupled with a model (or understanding) of wind dissemination of pollen by species, these investigations could provide new insights for urban tree management in high risk areas like schools, hospitals, dense population centers, or locations with sensitive surfaces.

This Special Award is co-sponsored by: The Georgia Urban Forest Council, the Georgia Forestry Commission, and the USDA Forest Service (Region 8 U&CF and Southern Research Station SRS-4952 Urban Forestry South).  This is the third year for this award.

Shwetha’s teacher at South Forsyth HS is Melissa Smith.  Judges included: Eric Kuehler (USDA FS), Andrew Saunders (Athens-Clarke County), and Creamor Scarborough (Georgia Forestry Commission).

What’s next for urban forestry?  Autonomous robots that climb trees and take foliage samples or search for EAB activity?

Visit Urban Forestry South to learn more about this award.

Leave a Reply