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.
It's the end of fall quarter here at DePaul, which means the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and winter break are upon us. The ink on grades is still drying, and it's a time to slow down and reflect a bit on the learning of the past ten weeks. I'd like to share with you a thoughtful end-of-quarter course reflection, written by Declan McInerney, a student in my ENV 151 Intro to Sustainability class.
Before this course, the word sustainability brought images of dirty hippies living on vegan communes in huts made from recycled garbage. That’s not to say that it’s not an image I could get behind, but my feelings were that sustainability was reserved for those living on the fringes of society. Through this course I’ve come to realize that sustainability is actually something all of us should be thinking about and striving for. In fact, we don’t even have to sacrifice our urban lifestyle to do so. Sustainability is not about retreating to caveman technology in order to save the planet. Quite the opposite, sustainability is about redefining our relationship to technology and compensating our society for the needs of the planet. This doesn’t mean running off to the woods and becoming feral; it means constructing urban gardens, developing more efficient systems, utilizing new technologies and designing smarter products. Sustainability appears to be the wave of the future and I’m excited to ride it!
Well said, Declan. And happy sustainable holidays everyone!
Jess Vogt, Assistant Professor, Env. Science & Studies, DePaul University