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IU Kokomo earns Tree Campus USA designation

Apr 7, 2020
A well house among trees
A well house among trees

KOKOMO, Ind. – Indiana University Kokomo earned the 2019 Tree Campus USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation, for commitment to caring for its trees.

“This is just the beginning of an effort to get our entire campus community involved and engaged in service learning with respect to our trees on campus,” said Leda Casey, senior lecturer in geology and director of the Office of Sustainability. She noted that IU’s goal is for all of its campuses to have the distinction.

Casey and a team of student interns, including Sydney Wick, Josh Vogel, and Sarah Reel, led efforts to conduct a tree survey and complete the application over the last year. They plan a virtual Arbor Day celebration April 24, to highlight what they learned about the campus trees, and why they are important.

“The project gets our students involved in learning about the canopy, its diversity, and how it creates habitats for animals on campus,” she said. “It helps us understand the carbon offset our trees provide, and our impact on the climate.”

They are currently working on an interactive guide the campus community may use to learn more about the trees.

Reel said it was interesting to investigate the many types of trees the campus has, and how to tell if they are healthy. They found white maple, sweetgum, white pin, and pin oak trees, among others.

“The Tree Campus USA designation isn’t as important as the commitment to our trees behind it,” she said. “It’s great to be recognized, but the most important part is protecting our great tree canopy, with its great carbon offset for our campus.”

To earn the designation, IU Kokomo had to meet five standards: Establish and maintain a tree advisory committee, create and follow a tree-care plan, have a budget items for trees, and host an Arbor Day observance that includes student service-learning projects.

Wick and Vogel worked with local forester Ryan Gilbert, who showed them what tools to use to identify the species of trees on campus, and measure their height. The survey is an ongoing project, and will culminate in creating an interactive map that includes trees on all IU campuses.

“We will be part of a university system map that inventories the species of trees on our campus, and their health,” she said.

The Tree Campus USA program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management, and for engaging staff and students in conversation goals. Currently there are 385 campuses across the United States with this recognition.

“Tree Campuses and their students set examples for not only how their student bodies but their surrounding communities showcasing how trees create a healthier environment,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Because of IU Kokomo’s participation, air will be purer, water cleaner, and your students and faculty will be surrounded by the shade and beauty the trees provide.”

Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.

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