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Estimating Tree Heights: Right Triangle Trigonometry

Author(s): Lou Gross1, Monica Beals1, Susan Harrell1

University of Tennessee Knoxville

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This module introduces basic trigonometry calculations in the context of understanding tree height calculations. It is intended for an introductory biology audience.

Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 15 Feb 2019 doi:10.25334/Q4S430 - cite this


Student Introduction: Scientists studying a forest ecosystem over a long period of time may record measurements of trees for a number of variables, including each tree's diameter at breast height, height of the lowest living branch, canopy cover, etc. One aspect of a tree's growth that can be hard to measure is tree height. Forest researchers sometimes use a piece of equipment consisting of telescoping components, which are extended until the tip reaches the same height as the tree top (this requires a second researcher standing at a distance from the tree to determine when the tip is at the correct height). This method can be cumbersome, as the equipment is bulky and the measurements require two people.

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