Do you care about healthy forests? You can apply to join this project if you are a hiker, a birder, a biker, a forager, or just love to spend time with trees! 

In 2022, our volunteers are collecting leaves, twigs, and acorns from eastern white oak, Quercus alba L.

This majestic tree is native to the eastern U.S. and among the most common hardwood species in the region. It has long been one of the most sought after timber species from the U.S. for flooring, furniture, and moldings. Recently, the demand for locally-sourced white oak staves for whiskey barrels and lumber shortages exacerbated by the global pandemic have driven prices up, in turn fueling timber theft.

Eastern white oak is an important food source for over 100 vertebrate animals, Their broad canopies, massive limbs, and deep roots provide habitat and support for the forest ecosystem. Indigenous cultures, including the Cherokee, Delaware, Oklahoma, Iroquois, Micmac, and Mohegan derive medicines from the cambium of white oak and feast on the acorns.

Law enforcement needs data from this project to catch and prosecute those responsible for eastern white oak theft. The data you collect will also help land managers better understand white oak ecosystem health and make decisions that ensure that this impressive, important tree thrives as environmental conditions change.

Project Details

A large eastern white oak tree growing in Fort Loudoun State Park, TN. Photo by Peter Taylor/iNat(CC BY-NC)

Timeframe and Commitment

Sample collection runs from May 16, 2022 through December 31, 2022.

This time period is broken up into sampling periods. You will sign up for at least one sample period. You are expected to collect samples from 10 trees during each six-week sampling period. The periods are:

May 16 – June 30

July 1 – August 14

August 15- September 30

October 1 – November 13

November 14 – December 31

Data collection will take place on public lands (forests, refuges, reserves, parks) and private lands throughout the eastern white oak range in the US. That range stretches across 34 states in the eastern, southern, and central U.S.

Eastern white oak thrives in many habitats, from ridges to valleys, mountain flanks to lowlands. You’ll hike or walk, sometimes navigating off-trail, to find individual trees. We expect you to collect samples from at least 10 trees that are at least 100 meters apart.



Training and Equipment


All volunteers need to complete online training modules prior to getting out in the field. We offer a variety of web events, discussions, and readings to supplement the training.

The training includes information on how to find and identify eastern white oaks in addition to project context and sampling protocols.

Data collection will include taking samples of leaves, twigs, acorns, and in a few cases, tree cores. You’ll also record data using a smartphone app.

You’ll be able to register for the land parcels where you plan to collect samples.

We will ship your equipment at least one week before your anticipated start date. You will need to ship your equipment and samples back to us as soon as you finish sampling.

Sean Yam and Ellen Kirby collecting black walnut samples in the William B. Bankhead National Forest, AL. Photo by Andy Bork



As a volunteer for Timber Tracking: Eastern White Oak, we ask that you meet these general qualifications:

  • 18 years of age or older (minors are welcome to join sampling outings but asked not to lead data collection)
  • Ability to use a smartphone to collect data
  • Experience and ability to safely travel in the outdoors with at least one partner
  • Previous field data collection experience is preferred but not required

We’ll supply you with the tools and training necessary to collect samples from the forest. You are required to follow all environmental, safety, and permitting protocols.

Check out the map below of the historic native range of eastern white oak (dotted line), with public lands where we’ve have permits for the project (green), permits are pending (yellow), or sample collection is complete (red).

Blue areas indicate where current volunteers are planning to collect samples for the project.