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.
Jess Vogt, Assistant Professor, Env. Science & Studies, DePaul University