Shoots and leaves: the shotgun scientist who hunts moving trees

As forests evolve in the face of climate crisis, some surprising methods are being used to track how species migrate

Angelica Patterson is on the lookout, shotgun in hand, as she hikes through New York state’s Black Rock Forest. She focuses on her target high up in the canopy, then bang – a branch falls to the ground. “I can’t climb trees, building scaffolding is expensive, and using a slingshot requires a lot of skill,” she says. “A shotgun is an efficient, cheap and effective way to collect the high-up leaves that have full exposure to the sun.”

Patterson puts the northern red oak branch into a bucket of water, cutting the submerged stem to ensure that its leaves continue to function, before walking back to her laboratory in the forest.

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