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UW-Eau Claire news release

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Tree inventory creates baseline for future campus tree replacement planning

March 14, 2012

EAU CLAIRE — With one new campus construction project nearing completion and preparation well under way for another, and given a recently completed 20-year Campus Master Plan that includes additional transformational changes at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, a group of biology and geography students is undertaking a campus tree inventory intended to help the university responsibly plan for tree preservation and replacement into the future.

"The intent is to establish a baseline — to establish the current status of this resource, quantify what we're losing, and eventually to utilize that knowledge to create a comprehensive campus arboreal plan," said Dr. James Boulter, UW-Eau Claire's sustainability fellow.

Boulter said those planning for the construction of the university's new Education Building, which will begin just after commencement in May, are ensuring that trees remain undisturbed or are relocated whenever possible.

"No doubt, it's upsetting to see so many trees lost — they not only beautify our campus but play crucial roles in local ecology and serve as important carbon dioxide sinks to mitigate our campus carbon footprint," Boulter said. "At the same time there are few options for where new facilities can be located on campus, and as planning for our new buildings has progressed there's been a conscious intent to save as many trees as possible. There's a lot of pride in the fact that we're considered Wisconsin's most beautiful campus."

The Campus Master Plan specifically states that large trees on campus cannot easily be replaced and should be protected, and it calls for the development of a standard tree replacement strategy for trees that must be removed due to construction, Boulter said.

That respect for such an important component of the campus ecology is what led to the tree inventory project, said Boulter, who serves as faculty mentor for the project. With support from UW-Eau Claire's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, student researchers will use GPS technology to record each tree's exact location. Students also will record each tree's diameter and species information. The data will be used to create a map that will be overlaid onto the campus GIS base map, which then will have the potential to be integrated with the Campus Master Plan map.

"Using GPS and GIS technology, the study will very accurately profile trees on campus that are threatened by future construction projects and will then allow for the appropriate planning to take place before construction in terms of mitigating the loss of trees on campus," said Phil Rynish, a senior biology major and geography minor from Seymour who is participating in the project.

Also working on the project are Kaleigh Spickerman, a senior ecology and environmental biology major from Highbridge, and Tyler Debruin, a senior biology major and geography minor from Kaukauna. The students are receiving technical support from Dr. Joe Rohrer, professor of biology, and Martin Goettl, geospatial technology facilitator in the department of geography and anthropology.

For more details on the tree inventory project, contact Dr. James Boulter, UW-Eau Claire's sustainability fellow, at boulteje@uwec.edu or 715-836-4175, or student researcher Phil Rynish at rynishpp@uwec.edu or 920-595-0443.
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