[Plant-education] Campus tree inventory

Scott Shumway via plant-ed%40net.bio.net (by sshumway from wheatonma.edu)
Sat Jun 7 20:06:44 EST 2008


Several years ago I set out to put display labels on all of the campus 
trees at Wheaton College, a small liberal arts college in MA.  I quickly 
learned that there were way too many trees on campus for me to handle.  
I settled for 80-100.  Your estimate sounds appropriate for our small 
campus!  (multiply by 10?)

First I tried to learn more about trees that already had various bronze 
plaques and labels associated with them. The college archivist had some 
records of trees that had been planted in honor of various graduating 
classes and alums.  Plant operations had some records as well, including 
a survey done by a tree care company (arborist) in the 1970s.  A few 
trees still have the numbered metal tags from this survey.  An emeritus 
professor of philosophy who retired soon after I was born had a hand in 
planting approximately 300 trees on campus.  After coming to terms with 
the fact that he knew more about trees than I did, I learned a fair 
amount about our campus trees from him.  He conducted tours of the 
campus trees for alumni until he reached his early 90's when I took over 
as the campus "tree guy".

I have since put labels on about 80 trees.  This project was funded by 
our president who had always worked at schools with a campus arboretum.  
Ours does not have such a designation, but has a remarkable collection 
of trees.  Students are attracted to these labels, particularly late on 
Saturday nights when their blood alchohol levels are slightly elevated 
and they feel the need to vandalize them.  :-( 

Name Plate and Panel Technology makes very attractive annodized aluminum 
labels.  After 5+ years the undisturbed labels show no signs of aging.  
They are mounted with screws and springs with the idea that you can 
unscrew a few turns as the tree grows around the screws.  I wonder if 
the folks who came up with this idea have ever actually tried to turn a 
screw that has been partially swallowed by a mighty oak.  Our 
groundskeepers have tried...and failed.  (Any suggestions???)  If I were 
to buy labels again, I would look into double thickness in order to make 
it more difficult for vandals to bend them in half.  http://www.nptec.com/

When I was beginning to label the campus trees, I paid a visit to folks 
at the Arnold Arboretum (Harvard).  They were completing a project 
similar to the one that you describe.  They had mapped their collection 
using GPS.  They were using commercial database software developed 
specifically for managing arboretum collections.

I also looked at many different web sites.  I believe Connecticut 
College and U Conn both have interactive maps that allow you to click on 
a location and view photos and information about particular trees.  They 
were somewhat primitive at the time and may have been improved by now.

One year I worked with a photography student who developed a virtual 
tour of the campus trees.  We did not attempt an interactive map.  

I look forward to learning more about your project and how other folks 
have used campus trees as an educational resource.


Bob Wise wrote:
> We are setting up a system to inventory all campus trees at UW Oshkosh 
> and I am curious if other campuses have undertaken a similar project 
> and how yours turned out.  We estimate there are 1200-1500 trees to 
> consider.  We'll worry about smaller, "non-tree" permanent plantings 
> (holly, dogwood, sumac) next year.
> Basically, our plan is to:
> 1.  determine coordinates of every individual tree using a hand-held 
> GPS device
> 2.  collect material from each species (but probably not every 
> individual), dry, mount, identify and archive in our herbarium
> 3.  number each accession with a three series number such as x.y.z 
> where x = genus, y = species and z = particular individual.  The x 
> (genus) number could also be organized such that 000-099 is reserved 
> for pines, 100-199 = spruces, 200-299 = oaks, etc.....
> 4.  generate a web-based, interactive CADD based map so that clicking 
> on one Quercus rubra, for instance, would highlight all of the other 
> red oaks on campus.
> Our intended audiences are the Chancellor (in support of a 
> multifaceted Campus Sustainability plan that includes recycling, 
> energy conservation, biodiversity, etc.), the Facilities and Grounds 
> department (who would like to know what trees we have, which ones we 
> can afford to lose and which new ones to plant), the Biology 
> department (in support of our botany curriculum) and the Science 
> Outreach Office (for the development of such tools as a campus tree 
> guide and study guides for local community K-12 outreach sessions). 
> Various inventories and incomplete maps have been generated for UWO 
> since at least the 1940's, but now it is time to focus our resources 
> and make a comprehensive study.
> We recently secured money to hire a summer intern and hope to get 
> started locating trees in a week or two, hence our interest in 
> designing an inventory system that will be easy to use and yet serve 
> everyone's needs.
> I can't help but think that other campuses have done a similar 
> inventory.  Please send me your good ideas.
> Bob

Scott Shumway
Professor of Biology
Wheaton College
Norton, MA 02766
sshumway from wheatonma.edu

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