Tree Campus USA

Tree Campus USA logo
Waubonsee Community College is a designated Tree Campus USA.

As part of the Tree Campus USA designation, Waubonsee Community College organized a campus-wide tree inventory, conducted entirely by student volunteers under the direction of the campus arborist, utilizing advanced Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology.

Students received instruction in tree identification, measurement techniques and the use of GPS handheld data collection devices, then worked in teams of two to three to identify, measure and rate tree condition. An arborist and GIS adjunct faculty member worked alongside students and answered questions as they arose.

Students have logged over 150 hours of participation, located and collected data on approximately 400 trees and completed over a quarter of the campus. Participation has been multi-disciplinary from the fields of liberal arts, science and technology. Student volunteers included biology students, Gustafson Scholars, a GIS intern and a student honor’s project. A core group of students have participated more than once. This has allowed first-time students to partner with past participants and increased the speed and accuracy of newcomers.

Although the tree inventory project meets Tree Campus USA application guidelines for service learning, it serves a secondary longer-term purpose. The completed inventory provides the arborist and Waubonsee's Campus Operations Department with current and historical tree data. This data supports the strategic management and care of campus trees and the resource allocation towards campus tree care.

Cities, campuses, arboretums, parks and forest preserves nationwide have long conducted tree inventories to plan for the care and management of trees. However not all have used the advanced capabilities of GIS. Waubonsee chose a GIS platform for the collection, formatting and management of its data for two reasons. First, the college offers a GIS degree and certificate program and has the faculty and student knowledge and software on campus to support this platform. Second, it is the most advanced management tool for tree inventories.

When the tree inventory is complete Campus Operations will have a Web-accessible map of the campus with unique points for each tree location. Upon selecting a tree location, the GIS map will display a table that includes the following data: tree species, diameter at breast height, height, condition and maintenance and care notes.

The tree inventory project has provided many benefits to students and the college. Students have experienced the real-world multi-disciplinary nature of work by participating in a project that combines science with technology. The college has a platform for the continued collecting and organizing of tree care data.