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Campus Trees Surveyed

Service Learning Volunteers Survey Campus Trees as Part of IUPUI's Participation in the Tree Campus USA Program


More than 3000 trees are currently catalogued in the IUPUI campus tree inventory.


The Tree Campus USA program was established by the Arbor Day Foundation to encourage colleges and universities to establish and sustain healthy forests as part of their campus communities.

 Data relating to the physical characteristics of individual trees is gathered during a survey.  This data includes the diameter of the tree at a set height, known as DBH.  To make these measurements, each team was equipped with a tape measure and DBH pole.  Measuring the diameter of trees with a single trunk was easy. Trees with a trunk than branched below DBH presented a challenge.


IUPUI is officially recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation.  To receive the Tree Campus designation, an institution must meet five criteria: 1) the campus has a tree advisory committee; 2) a campus tree care plan is in place; 3) the campus tree care program receives designated financial support from the university; 4) the campus observes Arbor Day; 5) service learning projects take place that involve care of the campus trees. 

The teams assessed tree health, looking for broken limbs, withered leaves, and other signs of damage or disease. Data was also collected concerning tree height.   


This fall, students volunteering for CEES Service Learning projects had an opportunity to assist in the surveying and monitoring of IUPUI's trees.  In the survey areas, students recorded data concerning tree diameter and height, and also assessed the health of individual trees.  Participants learned that high school math actually does have practical application: measuring tree height required students to brush up on their right triangle geometry.  (SOHCAHTOA rocks!)  CEES partnered with the Office of Sustainability and Campus Facility Services for these events.  During the events, Ryan Schafer from CFS was on hand with his Trimble GPS device to map any new trees encountered and add them to the GIS inventory of campus trees. 

 Tree height was measured using a (very fancy) gadget made from a protractor, soda straw, and fishing sinker (tied to the protractor to create a plumb line).  While one team member sighted the topmost limb of the tree through the soda straw, another team member read the angle indicated by the plumb line. The distance from the tree trunk to the sighting team member was measured (as was that person's height to eye level).  A series of mathematical operations followed, using the various numbers to calculate an estimate of tree height.  Once measured, a tree was marked as completed. 

The data collected was saved in both old-fashioned hard copy format (hurrah for pencil and paper!) and digitally using an iPad that let the teams download the collected information directly to the GIS inventory.


Only a portion of the campus was surveyed Fall 2018 (the IUPUI campus is home to more than 3000 trees!), so additional campus tree survey events are planned for Fall 2019.

Team sizes ranged from 5-8 students, depending on the particular survey day.  Tree surveys are intensive work - there were plenty of tasks for all.


In addition to participating in campus tree surveys, IUPUI students removed invasive honeysuckle from Starling Nature Preserve and Eagle's Crest Park, collected and planted native seed and removed invasive burning bush and honeysuckle at Holliday Park, participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count (a world-wide Citizen Science project), and cleaned trash from the Lilly ARBOR forest restoration site.  Nearly 400 students participated in service learning during the 2018/19 academic year. 


Excellent work IUPUI students!  



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