DePaul LUFA: Lab for Urban Forestry in the Anthropocene members and Environmental Studies majors Nicole Puka and Lukas Gilkeson recount their experience out doing fieldwork in Northwest Indiana as a part of Dr. Jess Vogt’s CommuniTree research.
During the summer of 2021, Lukas and I drove out to CommuniTree planting sites around Northwest Indiana to inventory some of the 8,000+ trees the initiative has planted since 2017. I was usually in charge of filling out our data collection form through a program and app called EpiCollect, while Lukas took measurements of each tree’s DBH, caliper, total height, and height to crown. Data collection didn’t always go as smoothly as we wanted it to! After finishing up data collection at a site right next to Lake Michigan (Marquette Park), Lukas and I were greeted with a sudden downpour. While the rain was welcomed in the heat, we didn’t quite enjoy being soaked.
Lukas has a knack for adding fun to fieldwork. From jumping in a lake on a hot day to swinging from ropes during our breaks, he made our heat exhaustion seem nonexistent. Lukas was also great at making friends! After finding a fairly deflated and barely-bouncing basketball at Sunnyside Park in East Chicago, Lukas threw some hoops during our lunch break. Two nearby kids decided to join in the fun! The kids say they won, but Lukas won’t admit to it. ;)
Meeting members of the communities that we were inventorying in was one of our favorite parts of fieldwork. During a visit to what we thought was a site under the Gary Water Tower, we were surprised with a beautiful community garden. "Farm-her" Carmen Cita McKee welcomed us to Oases Botanic Gardens with open arms, giving us an in-depth tour of the gardens’ trees and plants and explaining the positive impact the gardens have on the local community. She also asked if we could help her mulch, so of course we said yes! Carmen would like to let others know that the gardens are a great fit for community or business projects, volunteer opportunities, event hosting and more. She welcomes you to follow the gardens’ Instagram: @oases_botanic_gardens!
Lukas and I loved hearing stories from residents. We spoke to everyone we could, but most of the time they would come up to us to ask what we were doing! These individuals clearly loved their trees; many of them told us they never forget to water, and others showed their affection by displaying decorations around their tree. These moments always made our workday so much more exciting and left us smiling for the rest of the day.
Lukas and I love talking about our fieldwork experience so we invite you to chat with us!
Or visit the LUFA CommuniTree research page for more info about our project!
Please enjoy some of the photos we took during fieldwork.
This summer, we've welcomed to the LUFA team two new students who are doing fieldwork in Northwest Indiana as part of our CommuniTree research. Nicole Puka and Lukas Gilkeson (see their bios here) are conducting an inventory of some of the 8,000+ trees planted by the CommuniTree initiative.
Nicole is our tree protocol expert: She spent May and June looking through the scholarly literature and existing tree inventory protocols to develop the protocol the team is using. The final protocol went through lots of revisions based on feedback from several meetings with CommuniTree partners and then testing during field work training at the beginning of July. According to the final version, at each tree CommuniTree planted, the team will document tree location and mortality status; verify species with CommuniTree records; measure the diameter at breast height, caliper (diameter 6” from the ground), total tree height, and the height to the bottom of the tree’s crown; look for and document any evidence of pests or diseases; assess mulching, pruning, or staking (maintenance) needs; categorize planting area type and ground cover around the base of the tree; and make a variety of tree condition assessments including crown dieback, lower trunk damage, and any other visible damage. A copy of the full protocol will be available from the CommuniTree project page soon.
Lukas is our GIS database expert: He spent May and June gathering pre-existing tree location data from CommuniTree partners, including the Student Conservation Association (SCA), Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), Wildlife Habitat Council, and others, and collecting all this information into a single file of all CommuniTree tree points, and loading the data into ArcGIS Online for viewing during fieldwork in the ArcGIS Explorer app. For some planting sites where individual tree points weren’t available, Lukas compiled lists of sites with tree numbers and species information, and the team will gather precise location data on site during fieldwork. Lukas also pulled together a geodatabase of not only tree location data but existing land use/land cover data, U.S. Census data, and other social-ecological data, which will be used during postprocessing and data analysis this fall. Lukas is also the driver during field work, getting the team to and from Northwest Indiana 3-4 times per week using the DePaul Environmental Science and Studies Department van.
Nicole and Lukas then worked together to set up a form for tree data collection in EpiCollect5, a free spatial data collection software that allows us to set up a custom data collection form for this project. We chose to use EpiCollect over a variety of other possible data collection apps (e.g., ArcGIS/ESRI’s Survey123, iTree Eco) because we wanted a free, easy-to-customize form and application that could be turned over to CommuniTree partners for their own future use after summer data collection is over.
In the first week of July, we tested the protocol down at Lincoln Elementary School in East Chicago with the help of Drew Hart, the US Forest Service Chicago Natural Resources Liaison and a key CommuniTree organizer; Joe Exl of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), a CommuniTree “backbone” organization, and the four members of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) Calumet Tree Conservation Corps. The SCA crew spends most of their summer months working on tree watering, mulching, and pruning, but we’re excited that this summer they will also be helping us out on the research by doing some tree inventorying whenever they can! Thank you, SCA!
So what will be doing with the data that Lukas, Nicole, and the SCA gather this summer? Come this fall, we’ll be analyzing the data to figure out what social-ecological factors might be influencing the survival of CommuniTree-planted trees. Learn more on the CommuniTree research project page here. And stay tuned for more updates throughout the summer!
Annalise Nordgren has been a research assistant with LUFA since fall of 2019. She wrote the following profile of her experiences in research and with DePaul Urban Gardeners for the ENV Department newsletter.
My name is Annalise Nordgren. I am finishing up my senior year at DePaul University with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. I transferred into DePaul in 2018, my sophomore year of college, after a year of feeling lost at my previous school. Off the bat, I became giddy with the varied opportunities the Environmental Science and Studies department offers to its students, from research opportunities to involvement in student orgs!
I started working in the Chaudhary Ecology Lab run by Dr. Chaudhary my first year. With Dr. Chaudhary I worked on creating a spore extraction protocol to determine mycorrhizal spore viability. The following year Dr. Chaudhary received an NSF grant which allowed her to move to Berlin for a year to continue her research.
During that time, I worked with Dr. Vogt in her Lab for Urban Forestry in the Anthropocene (LUFA). Although I am no longer working on a project with Dr. Chaudhary, I still try to attend lab meetings when I am available, as the lab community she has developed is such a supportive one!
My research with Dr. Vogt allowed me to develop an interest in urban forestry and arboriculture. I am currently working on a project studying the tree damage caused by the Derecho storm in August 2020, which was responsible for the loss of over 7,000 trees in the Chicago land area.
I have been so fortunate to find wonderful mentors in Dr. Vogt and Dr. Chaudhary, both very inspirational researchers in their fields.
At the beginning of my first year here at DePaul I became involved in the DePaul Urban Garden (DUG), which, at that point, was called Urban Farming Organization (UFO). As a fresh new volunteer, I grew to love the space and the community of students and faculty that gathers there. I have been lucky enough to serve as a board member during the garden transition, a project which has been ongoing over the past two years. DUG received a grant from the Vincentian Endowment Fund which allowed us to invest in a new garden space. See the photo gallery below with pictures!
We purchased raised bed material to construct 30 new raised beds. In creating this new space, we wanted to incorporate not only our commitment to gardening but also to give back to the community. We wanted to include a central meeting space and did so with materials mainly sourced from recycled bicycle rims. In addition to the physical changes in the space, we have redefined the goals of the organization. DUG has made a commitment to grow produce primarily intended for donation to those living with food insecurity. DUG greatly appreciates the healing properties of spending time outside and in nature. We have made it our goal to open up the space to DePaul organizations and volunteers for events, activities, and healing time.
For more information about DUG involvement please reach out to DUG at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DePaul University has received the 2020 Tree Campus USA certification from Arbor Day Foundation, making it the third year to be recognized for its on-campus tree efforts!
With the pandemic restricting in-person events, the DePaul Trees student group took the lead in offering online resources around seasonal tree identification, stewardship and advocacy, and virtual urban forestry events, including observance of Arbor Day in April. Recognition as a Tree Campus offers DePaul students a connection to a broader network of resources that engage them with urban forestry locally and beyond. Caring for the urban forest is also caring for people as it enhances sustainability and livability of our cities, and DePaul is proud to be a part of that work in Chicago. By celebrating these efforts on campus, we are able to promote practices and skill sets to take not only into future careers but into our personal lives as we interact with trees wherever we may be.
To be a part of growing this work in 2021, join the DePaul Trees student group on DeHUB for email updates, check out our social media (Facebook, Instagram & Twitter), or send an email to email@example.com. You can also explore the trees on the Lincoln Park campus from home on our interactive tree map. See also the LUFA Trees@DePaul page.
The above post was written by DePaul Trees president, Alli Preble. Alli is currently finishing her thesis using soundscape ecology to evaluate urban park management for her MS Environmental Science degree at DePaul. Alli is also a former LUFA research assistant: in 2017, she conducted field work inventorying street trees in Dolton, IL.
New LUFA member Elene Drosos provides an update on the newest LUFA project, evaluating whether virtual street imagery can be use to assess storm damage from the August 2020 derecho storm. Elene writes:
This winter intersession, I was recruited by Annalise, Camila, and Dr. Vogt to become a research assistant in the Virtual Tree Inventory Project. For this part of the "virtual" project, however, we were actually outside in the middle of winter! My duties were to mainly take the pictures of storm damage and of species characteristics on each of the trees we surveyed. I also measured the DBH, plot area, and height of the trees, working alongside Annalise and Camila. Most of the time though, Annalise would be in charge of the clipboard for our written data, Camila would measure plot area and height, and I would be responsible for the photos that we are currently using for analyzing storm damage and identifying uncertain tree species from each surveyed transect. I used my cell phone to take pictures and was always armed with a battery pack so that we could soak up all of the little daylight in December and collect as much tree data as possible. Now that we have all of this data, we hope to analyze it virtually with the help of street view imagery.
Stay tuned for future updates as we enter the next phase of this project where we'll be using virtual imagery to verify the location and species of trees before the storm, so that we can compare to field data and determine what tree characteristics were likely to lead to tree failure.
LUFA student Camila Cortez was profiled this week in DePaul's Newline publication! Camila is working on the TreeKeepers project as her senior B.S. thesis for the B.S. Environmental Science degree and also a McNair Scholar. Click the screen shot below to see the full article.
Guest post by former LUFA student Kaitlyn Pike. Kaitlyn graduated from DePaul in June 2020 with her M.S. in Environmental Science and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Forestry at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
In December, my first peer-reviewed paper, “Tree preservation during construction: An evaluation of a comprehensive municipal ordinance,” was accepted for publication in the journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. My paper, which evaluated the effectiveness of a tree preservation ordinance in the City of Highland Park, was my thesis research that I completed during my time in DePaul’s M.S. in Environmental Science program.
As we know, mature trees provide us with a plethora of benefits – from carbon sequestration and stormwater management, to improvements to our mental and physical health (Roy et al., 2012). As urban populations continue to rise, however, protecting mature trees has proven to be a challenge for towns and cities that wish to maintain or increase their tree cover. This is particularly important, as studies continue to find that unrestricted construction can negatively impact the condition and survival of trees (Koeser et al., 2013; Morgenroth et al., 2017; Guo et al., 2018, 2019). While tree preservation ordinances (i.e. rules and regulations that protect trees during construction projects) are becoming more common for public trees on public property, it is less common that these types of ordinances exist for private trees on private properties.
Highland Park, IL, a city with a robust and well-funded forestry department, has had a tree preservation in place for the past few decades. Having already worked with Highland Park’s City Forester, Dr. Keith O’Herrin, on another project during my B.A. in Environmental Studies, working with the City to evaluate their tree preservation ordinance for my M.S. was a great opportunity to gain further experience designing and implementing a research project that aimed to solve a real-world problem. Working with Highland Park’s Forestry Section not only gave me invaluable experience into how forestry departments operate, but allowed me to utilize municipal and public records in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the City’s tree preservation ordinance.
The results of my research found that the City of Highland Park is successfully protecting the trees on properties that undergo residential redevelopment – where existing, older homes were demolished and replaced with newer homes. This was evident through 1) a satisfactory tree preservation rate (calculated by using construction site maps to determine which trees were removed after construction occurred vs. which still remained), 2) having found no correlation between tree condition or survival and a tree’s distance from a newly built home (contrary to what previous studies had found where no ordinance was in place), and 3) having found that the soil within the critical root zones of trees was successfully maintained (by not surpassing the literature-recommended compaction level for healthy root growth). Furthermore, my research found that areas where construction activities occurred freely had more compacted soils, while areas where construction was restricted (within the critical root zones of trees) had less compacted soils. This is one of the first studies that demonstrates how tree preservation ordinances can successfully protect trees and soils on properties that undergo construction.
If you’re interested in reading my paper, you can find it here. I was also able to share my results as a poster at the 2020 International Society of Arboriculture Annual Conference, which can be viewed here (or click on the poster below). Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me regarding my research, or if you have any questions about my experiences in LUFA or DePaul’s M.S. in Environmental Science program: firstname.lastname@example.org
Guo, T., Morgenroth, J., & Conway, T. (2018). Redeveloping the urban forest: The effect of redevelopment and property-scale variables on tree removal and retention. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2018.08.012
Guo, T., Morgenroth, J., Conway, T., & Xu, C. (2019). City-wide canopy cover decline due to residential property redevelopment in Christchurch, New Zealand. Science of the Total Environment. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.05.122
Koeser, A., Hauer, R., Norris, K., & Krouse, R. (2013). Factors influencing long-term street tree survival in Milwaukee, WI, USA. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2013.05.006
Morgenroth, J., O’Neil-Dunne, J., & Apiolaza, L. A. (2017). Redevelopment and the urban forest: A study of tree removal and retention during demolition activities. Applied Geography. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2017.02.011
Roy, S., Byrne, J., & Pickering, C. (2012). A systematic quantitative review of urban tree benefits, costs, and assessment methods across cities in different climatic zones. In Urban Forestry and Urban Greening (Vol. 11, Issue 4, pp. 351–363). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2012.06.006
Hello urban forestry world!
My Environmental Sciences and Studies department at DePaul University in Chicago has a relatively new MS degree in Environmental Science that is now accepting applications for program entry in Fall 2020, Winter 2021, or Spring 2021! Full program information and links at the end of this post.
While not a degree in urban forestry, the program is decidedly urban-focused, with options for completing either a Professional (project-and internship-based) or Thesis (research-based) tracks. We have current Professional-track students who have been working for various local urban forestry and urban/suburban conservation organizations. And just this past spring we graduated our first MS thesis student, long-term LUFA research assistant Kaitlyn Pike, who did research on tree condition and construction on private property under the advisement of myself and the city forester for Highland Park, Dr. Keith O’Herrin, and funded by the Morton Arboretum Center for Tree Science. (Kaitlyn is off to UBC for her Ph.D. in urban forestry this fall!)
The Chicago area is a great place to live and work in the urban greening field. The area is well-endowed with urban forestry organizations - the Morton Arboretum, Openlands, Chicago Region Trees Initiative, CommuniTree in Northwest Indiana, just to name a very few - many of which LUFA has worked with and ENV students past and present have found internship/job opportunities with.
You can start the master’s program this fall (or winter, or spring) if you’re interested!
Please feel free to reach out to me (email@example.com) or my colleague ENV chair and MS program director Dr. Mark Potosnak (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions. I’m happy to have Zoom, phone, or email convos with potential applicants.
Applications are being accepted now for DePaul University’s MS in Environmental Science (MSES) degree focused on urban ecological restoration and conservation land management!
This is a very student-focused program. Please see this video which highlights several current students and their perspectives.
This graduate degree will prepare students for careers in ecological restoration, species and landscape conservation, biodiversity management, urban forestry, green infrastructure management, and ecological consultancy. Our department's expertise is in applied environmental science and this will bring exciting and useful training in the field of conservation land management. The program has both thesis (research) and professional tracks.
Additional program information is available at: http://go.depaul.edu/envsciinfo.
Environmental Science & Studies Department faculty have disciplinary expertise in paleontology, plant-atmosphere interactions, restoration ecology, urban forestry, urban agriculture, ecological economics, soil ecology and science, urban ecology, and related fields. Students complete 13 course equivalents, with an expectation that full-time students can complete the program in two academic years. The program is housed in the McGowan South Building (LEED certified) in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, which provides a modern research infrastructure that includes laboratories, analytical facilities, environmental growth chambers, a rooftop garden, and a greenhouse.
The program is accepting applications on a rolling basis for enrollment in Winter, Spring, or Fall quarters (though a Fall quarter start is encouraged) so interested prospective students should apply now! Applications received by Jul 15 will be considered for the Fall quarter start date of Wed Sep 9 2020.
Please contact the program director, Mark Potosnak at email@example.com or 773-325-7867 if you have any questions.
It’s been a busy summer for LUFA! Since so much has happened, I thought I’d write a quick update with some of the key accomplishments of our lab.
First off, LUFA students Margaret Abood, Kaitlyn Pike, and Cecilia Shoopmann and I just got back from attending the 2018 International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Conference in Columbus, Ohio. Some highlights from the event:
Overall, we all had a great time learning and networking! Cecilia, Margaret, and Kaitlyn represented LUFA, the Environmental Science & Studies Department, and DePaul well. I was very proud. At the end, the students all said, “I can’t wait to come back next year,” which means the future of urban forestry is bright!
In other news from earlier in the summer, Kaitlyn Pike was awarded the highly competitive Garden Club of America Zone VI Fellowship in Urban Forestry to support her summer research on trees and construction, conducted in collaboration with Highland Park City Forester Keith O’Herrin. Kaitlyn will be starting our department’s brand new Masters of Science in Environmental Science this fall, and her summer project is the beginning of what will be her master’s thesis research. Kaitlyn was also awarded a scholarship from the TREE Fund (Tree Research and Education Endowment). Between all this and her AREA Student Travel Grant, you can’t stop this young researcher! I personally look forward to being her thesis supervisor for the next two years.
The final LUFA news update is international: On Sunday, August 12th, I’m headed to China! I’ve been invited by researchers at Henan Agricultural University to be a Visiting Foreign Expert at the International Lab of Henan Provincial Landscape Architecture in Zhengzhou, Henan. I’ll be there for 3 weeks, during which time I’ll give talks on climate change & urban forests, transdisciplinary research, how to write a high-quality scientific paper, mixed methods research, and learn from my Chinese colleagues (and nearly 50 graduate students at the International Lab!) about urban greening research and practice in China. Stay tuned for a full report when I return in September!
It's finally spring...or at least warm enough for trees! While it may still be a few degrees below average and one of the colder springs we've had in a while, it's time to start planting trees!
This April and May, members from the LUFA team will be heading down to Northwest Indiana nearly every Saturday to plant trees with the Student Conservation Association's (SCA) Calumet Tree Conservation Corps, which is part of the grant-funded CommuniTree program. CommuniTree and SCA are in the midst of a multi-year effort to plant thousands of trees on public properties and post-industrial brownfield lands in order to provide benefits to the people and ecosystems of the cities of Gary, Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago as well as surrounding communities.
Not only will we be planting trees in parks, golf courses, along streets, and in other public spaces, but LUFA is also conducting a survey of the volunteers that show up to these tree planting events. This is part of the CommuniTree Program Evaluation research being conducted by Dr. Jess Vogt & LUFA students. We're trying to learn more about the types of people that volunteer, how they find out about the event, and what motivates people to come out and plant trees, in order to evaluate the outcomes of grant-funded tree planting for people and ecosystems, as well as help CommuniTree (in only its second year) improve their programming.
At these tree planting events, we're conducting our version of participatory-action research, where LUFA team members attend the event not only in our capacity as researchers to learn, observe, and collect data, but also as full participants in the tree planting activities itself. We get our hands dirty planting trees right along side the SCA crew members and volunteers from the community! See the photographic evidence below from recent plantings in Gary, IN.
For the April 7th planting at IU Northwest, we (Jess, LUFA research assistant Mimi Payne and ENV freshman Tyler Bogartz-Brown) joined the SCA crew, USFS's Drew Hart, SCA's Daiva Gylys, and a large group of volunteers from IUN, the Calumet Artist Residency, Girl Trek, and many more (42 people in total!) to plant 52 trees along Broadway St. This past Saturday, April 20 we were at Washington/Reed Park where we planted 20 trees with the small-but-mighty group consisting of the 4-person Calumet crew and SCA staff CM Tena, plus myself (Jess), LUFA RAs Kaitlyn Pike and Becca Brokaw, and ENV sophomore Taylor Gold). For both dates - and all Saturday tree plantings this season - the day was led by the fantastic 4-member SCA Calumet Tree Conservation Corps: crew leader BreShaun and crew members Joe, Jerome, and Jasmine.
Follow along with the spring CommuniTree activities at the Calumet Tree Conservation Corps Facebook page, the CommuniTree Facebook page, and the SCA Chicago Midwest Facebook page. We'll also keep posting updates and more pictures here at the LUFA blog (and next fall, tune in for the results of the research we're conducting with CommuniTree).
And...come join us some Saturday down in Indiana!
Jess Vogt, Assistant Professor, Env. Science & Studies, DePaul University