LETS stands for Local Elevation Transect Survey. At the Leysin American School we call it LETS Study Leysin, but we hope this approach will be picked up by other mountain schools across the globe, where elevation transects will help us teach science by doing science. Here in Leysin, the LETS goal is to discover how ecology changes as we move up the mountain from the valley at 500m to the summit of the Tour d’Ai at 2,300m. Along this vertical transect there are many changes in vegetation and animals, including passing through timberline to where no trees grow at all.
By carrying out this study over many years, our ecology work will turn into a climate study as well. If the climate continues to warm as it currently is, then plant species are expected to migrate uphill, and timberline will climb higher up the mountain. As a mountain school, LAS is perfectly positioned to follow these changes and to contribute to scientific understanding of the process. After we have established solid protocols for this investigation, we will start working with other schools to follow trends over large geographical areas.
Our goal with LETS Study Leysin is for students to “learn science by doing science”. And by that we mean real science that explores the unknown and tries to come back with answers. Many students are motivated by the fact that what they’re doing actually makes a difference to our understanding of the world. They’re participating in long-term term research that’s bigger than us all. Some students are exposed to the natural environment and field science for the first time. This may or may not make them want to become field scientists, but either way, they’ll understand better how science works.
The article below was written by Dan Patton for the LAS Panorama magazine. It depicts a day in the field carrying out the LETS study. It’s easiest to read if you click the full screen icon (the square frame to the right of “Issuu”.
Our goal is to develop LETS protocols to a level where it will be easy for new LAS teachers to seamlessly launch directly into the program. At that point, we’ll also be ready to share our protocols with other schools worldwide. We dream of a network of schools with their own Local Elevation Transect Surveys. Together, LETS Study the World.
The Switzerland National Forest Inventory (NFI) provides some good information about the importance of ongoing surveys such as this, and the value of the data collected. They have produced a short film outlining many of the techniques we will be using, and why it is vital to follow rigorous protocols.