Arboretum encourages ecological awareness

By Kate Mallory

Contributing Writer

Each tree in the arboretum is numbered and labeled with biological information.

A group of students and professors has worked to install the new arboretum on campus in an effort to help the University community learn about and appreciate the many different types of trees on campus.

All of the trees marked with orange numbered plaques are part of the University’s new campus arboretum. An offshoot of the Campus Greening Initiative, the project was designed to maintain and promote sustainability for the campus landscape.

The arboretum was envisioned as a place where students and faculty could learn about botany, ecology and environmental sustainability. President Bravman will preside at the arboretum’s official unveiling at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 1 in the Grove.

Over the last three summers Bobby Mullin ’11 and Nick Gonsalves ’11 worked with Mark Spiro, associate professor of biology,and Duane Griffin, associate professor of geography, to identify, catalog and measure the diameters, breasts and heights of more than 1,700 trees on campus. This comprehensive inventory can be viewed in an interactive map.

The project’s centerpiece is the half-mile walking tour that highlights 73 trees on campus. The walking tour extends throughout the entire campus, including the Grove, a remaining portion of a large forest that dates to the 1770s.

“I’ve already used some of the data from the project to explain the historical origins of the Grove,” Gonsalves said. “I hope this data keeps the University accountable for what it plants—and removes—with an emphasis on favoring native species better adapted to the local environment.”

The group has done other work on the new arboretum, including collecting herbarium samples, which involves cutting off parts of the tree and drying them, and creating individual web pages for the 95 tree species in the arboretum.

The question pending for the arboretum is what will happen after the seniors who have spearheaded the project graduate. While Griffin and Spiro will remain involved, they will need more student volunteers to keep the project alive.

“We will need people, hopefully some kind of full-time position, to keep the arboretum going because there are day-to-day challenges I do deal with,” Gonsalves said.

“For instance, just the other day, a tree tour post was taken from the ground, and now we have to go through the effort of reinstalling it. Another issue is the tree plaques themselves. The plastic has started to bend due to the stress of the hot weather we’ve had in the past weeks. Obviously this can be remedied, but only if people keep working on the project,” Gonslaves said.

With a growing interest in the green movement on campus, the founders of the arboretum may not have a problem finding caretakers. Patrick O’Keefe ’13, vice president of the Bucknell Environmental Club, believes the arboretum will have ardent supporters on campus.

“I think this project will be very beneficial for the University community. Not only will students be able to learn more about the environment, but they’ll also learn how to appreciate our environment,” O’Keefe said.

Gonsalves hopes students will attend the official unveiling on Oct. 1.

“We encourage any ecologist, tree fanatic or just somebody with just a slight interest in gardening to come,” he said. “I hope there will be plenty of educational opportunities coming from the arboretum besides the obvious ‘Oh, I’ve always liked that tree and now I know it’s a white oak.’”

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