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Fr. Arnold Perham: Priest, Educator, Botanist

August 24, 2015

Never let it be said that any grass grows under Fr. Arnold Perham’s feet. Fr. Arnold Perham

After researching new software all summer, developed in part by the Smithsonian Institute, Fr. Perham will introduce a new, interdisciplinary project to freshmen in Saint Viator High School’s Querbes Scholars Program, that mixes math and botany.

Using their iPads, Fr. Perham will challenge students to identify leaves — cut from trees on the grounds of the Viatorian Province  Center — with the help of Leafsnap, a mobile app that provides visual recognition software to help identify tree species.2015_White_Oak

“This new software uses some of the algorithms of facial recognition software and applies them to tree leaves,” Fr. Perham says.

Students will work collaboratively on the project. While one group identifies the leaves, another will list the qualitative shape descriptors. A third group will use a guided worksheet to learn the formulas for determining the quantitative shape descriptors of the leaves, while the last group uses ImageJ, an image 2015_Ginkgoprocessing program designed for scientific analysis of multi-dimensional images.

Ultimately, the students will compare the results computed by hand — with those determined by using the software — to find an equal balance between the qualitative and quantitative shape descriptors.

“One of the main goals of this project is to get these students involved with the environment,” Fr. Perham adds, “so that they will develop a more caring attitude toward the environment and climate change.”Fr. Perham, Nina Byskosh

Fr. Perham has been developing projects for Querbes Scholars — that force students to think outside the box — since the program’s inception in 2010.

He also is a lifelong learner, and next month will join a group of Viatorian associates, brothers and priests who plan to meet monthly to discuss Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’.