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about 6 years ago

TreesCount! Data Jam Challenges


As part of TreesCount! 2015, NYC Parks has engaged with our voluntreers, tree-oriented community groups, and non-profit partners to identify how street tree census data can help improve equitable care of our urban forest. NYC Parks, with the assistance of BetaNYC, has turned this feedback and NYC Park’s own questions into these Data Jam challenges.

Now, we are asking you to help us make sense of the Census!  

For the day, we are asking you to work with NYC Parks staff, TreesCount! Partners, and fellow jammers to propose solutions, maps, hacks, algorithms, and/or mobile responsive web apps. We need your experience to branch out! 

Note: More details will be available at the Data Jam on NYC Parks’ own Street Tree Map web app, currently in beta release for feedback and testing while the census is still being collected and the data in review prior to commit into NYC Parks’ Forestry Management System.


#1. How has NYC’s urban forest changed over time — comparing 1995, 2005, and 2015?

TreesCount! 2015 is the third decadal effort to completely inventory New York City’s street trees! To date, 530,000 trees, representing approximately 80% of the City’s streets, have been mapped as part of the 2015 census, and NYC Parks is releasing all the data that has been reviewed to date. The Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island have all been completed. It is the most spatially accurate street tree dataset New Yorkers have ever seen. We need your help visualizing, comparing, and understanding changes across tree census datasets.

By building maps or visualizations, your goal is to help us begin to understand how changes in our urban forest affect NYC’s neighborhoods.

Sample questions to explore:

  • How has tree species composition changed since 1995?
  • Have we lost a lot of big trees in the past ten years? In what areas or neighborhoods?
  • How has block planting affected neighborhoods over time?
  • How are trees growing over time across the city, and what factors influence that growth?



#2. How can we visualize Street Tree Census Data to improve our understanding of the urban forest and help educate New Yorkers?   

The Street Tree Census provides us with a wealth of data. Turning this into useful information through maps and visualizations helps us understand the urban forest. Maps and visualizations can help us build an understanding of this shared resource, and enable data-driven management decisions.

Your goal is to make beautiful maps and visualizations that enable all types of New Yorkers to learn more about our urban forest.

Sample questions to explore:

  • Where are the tree deserts and oases in the city?
  • How does tree condition vary across the city, and how is it related to urban factors that can impact growing conditions, such as land use and density?
  • How can we visualize similarities in tree characteristics such as species, size, or condition in a way that would allow us to identify management units within the urban forest?


#3. What relationships can be drawn between the Street Tree Census Data and other environmental and economic indicators in New York City?

NYC’s urban forest is an integral component of a healthy and equitable city. Understanding the urban forest’s relationship to the City’s health and economy will help urban forest stakeholders advocate for more resources to build a healthier and equitable city. Understanding these relationships will help demystify our urban forest’s impact.

Your goal is to use tree census data to help us understand our urban forest’s relationship to specific environmental and economic indicators.

Sample questions to explore:

  • What is the relationship between tree census data and socioeconomic indicators such as education, public health, income, crime?
  • What are the characteristics of neighborhoods with big trees, small trees, no trees?
  • What are the relationships between the street tree census data and other environmental indicators that impact quality of life (such as air quality, temperature, water quality, pollution, noise)?
  • Is there any relationship between the health of trees and physical geography, such as elevation and slope?
  • What are the relationships between street tree census data and other civic indicators such as (community participation, voting, volunteerism, stewardship engagement)?



#4. How can we use the Street Tree Census Data to efficiently plan for the long term health and growth of the urban forest?

With the 1995 and 2005 street tree censuses, NYC Parks has been able to catalyze major advances in urban forest management, making science-based operational decisions and quantify the benefits of the urban forest. In addition to understanding patterns in resource distribution and condition over time, long-term urban forest management decisions must consider factors such as climate change, pests, diseases, land use, and species diversity.

Your goal is to help us explore these factors using census data and help us develop strategies to address the future of the urban forest.

Sample questions to explore:

  • Which neighborhoods will need large scale tree replacement in coming years? (hint: use size as a proxy for tree age and look at distributions in different areas)
  • Where are neighborhoods with the most need for additional trees, and how can  the street tree census datasets help us target areas for future planting?
  • How can we use this data to identify areas at risk from threats to the urban forest, such as hurricanes, coastal flooding, Emerald Ash Borer, etc?
  • How can we use data on street infrastructure and land use to identify how trees are affected, and inform where we plant which tree species in the future?



#5. How can we use Street Tree Census Data to better engage with and target the efforts of community stewardship volunteers to improve the health of the urban forest?  

Trees in urban settings face many challenges from both people and the environment.  We believe that tree stewardship by the community is an essential part of achieving our urban forestry goals.  Resources for tree care are finite, and so it is important that we better understand tree stewards and the challenges they face, and maximize the effectiveness of our volunteers by supporting their stewardship activity.

Your goal is to explore Street Tree Census data to help develop insights that can measure the impact of stewardship on the health of our urban forest, and help us understand where stewardship efforts are most needed.

Sample questions to explore:

  • Which signs of stewardship are most correlated with healthy trees? How can stewardship offset the challenges faced by trees across the City?  
  • How do tree guards affect health of trees? How many trees have guards in each City Council district and/or Community Board/Community District?
  • How can we use signs of stewardship or other indicators to target areas for greater environmental education and volunteer mobilization?
  • Where are areas of lower tree stewardship activity, and how can we target engagement towards high-need areas?