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Woody and Tinsel aren't HRM's only talking trees, Haligonians will soon be able to Text-A-Tree

Haligonians are used to reading tweets from great white sharks and soon we'll be able to get text messages from trees
070419-text a tree

Haligonians are used to reading tweets from great white sharks and soon we'll be able to get text messages from trees.

It's part of an upcoming project at the Halifax Public Gardens this summer that will see signs with phone numbers posted on 14 trees.

People will be able to text the number and have conversations with them.

Dalhousie University student Julietta Sorensen Kass is behind Text-A-Tree. She tells NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show, part of the social experiment is to get people to interact with nature in a novel way, and the other aspect is more academic.

"There's actually research going into this," she says. "Once I get all of the messages at the end of the summer, I'll be analyzing them."

One volunteer will be assigned to "speak" each tree for the length of the project and Sorensen Kass says don't expect an instant response.

"When you text a tree, you will get an automatic response letting you know you have contacted the correct tree, and directing you to where you can get more information," she says. "Then within 24 hours, a live person will be responding within the voice of the tree, and they will continue having a conversation with you back-and-forth for as long as you like."

Sorensen Kass is working with Professor Peter Duinker who has been looking into how and why people value tress in urban areas.

The Public Gardens was picked because the pair wanted an accessible spot. With several Halifax Transit routes heading down Spring Garden Rd., the location is easy to reach.

"Because of the scientific side of this, we wanted to keep things consistent for our research," she explains.

"That meant the trees needed to be within a certain number of metres from the path so that you could access them immediately without having to walk through the middle of the park and cause damage, and we wanted to make sure there was a tree near every entrance so that we weren't swaying the results based on how close a particular tree was to a path or an entrance."

In addition, Sorensen Kass says some of the trees were picked because they were used by the Mi'kmaw people, others because they are significant in the Japanese culture, including a 15th tree that won't text you back.

"We will be having a wish tree, so along with 14 trees that will have conversations with you, there's also a wish tree that will receive your wishes by text."

Text-A-Tree will launch Sunday with the project running until August 31, and some of the messages may be shared anonymously.

Sorensen Kass is interested to see what messages are received and if some trees become more popular than others.

"We'll also be putting out a wish of the day on social media, anonymously, so that people can get a sense of what some people are wishing to the trees," she says. "We're hoping that if we get a collection, we might later be able to release anonymously some of the messages which were sent to the trees."

"We're prepared for pretty much anything," Sorensen Kass adds.

Haligonians can participate by using the hashtag #textatreehalifax or following the project @textatreehalifax on Facebook and Instagram.


Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana & lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the community editor for
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