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June 2018 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly newsletter, the TREE Press. This issue also includes our new Research Report, a quarterly publication that features more in-depth research coverage.

Behind the Research: Meet Dr. Kathleen W...

How did you get interested in your field of work?      

Both of my parents came from farming families in the Midwest. My dad was a landscape contractor and avid outdoorsman. So being in nature was just part of growing up in the Pacific Northwest. I attended a liberal arts college where I majored in Biology, but was interested in both social and biological systems. My first real job? I was the first  urban forester for the City of Key West. I loved the intersection of the temperate and tropical flora in the Keys. Landscape architects started calling me to specify plants for their designs. I enjoyed working with them, and thought, this is it, a professional connection between people and plants. So, I went on to pursue a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan. While there I took classes with environmental psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan. I was hooked; their studies of nature and human response were fascinating. They developed the Attention Restoration Theory, the idea that that our busy lifestyles deplete our ability to concentrate and be productive, so we need to spend time outside to recharge. So, I ‘re-enlisted’ for the Ph.D. program and continued with studies about the  patterns of human response to nature. This research, a passion, combines nature, science, culture, and (sometimes) design.

Your current research focuses on nature and human health. What is your ultimate goal with this line of study?

Research confirms that humans literally need time in nature, and I’m proud to have been part of that community of science. Evidence demonstrates that everyone needs access to “nearby nature” on a regular basis. This is not about that occasional vacation trip, or getting away from the city. It’s about every person having a consistent supply of ‘metro nature’ around them all the time. Next we need to provide nature programs that encourage more healthful activities. Some people don’t recognize nature benefits or don’t know how to enter that space. Programs like “Walk with a Doc” or “Yoga in the Park” can help. Of late I’ve become interested in making the availability of nature part of city policy beyond urban forestry, to elevate the science of nature benefits to city-wide change. The need(!) for trees, parks, and gardens needs to be integrated with housing policy, transportation policy, and so on, so it becomes part of all city systems.

What trends do you see in this area of research?

The research is expanding; I think the bigger change is social change. There is now greater public awareness and recognition by public officials of nature and human health benefits. And people in environmental health have traditionally focused on clean air and water, and removing toxins. Now they’re looking at nature in cities as a salutogenic influence, a way to prevent disease and promote health. This leads to all sorts of new research questions:

  • What is the best “dose” of nature? Where, how much, how often?
  • What are the characteristics of nature (e.g., native plants vs. ornamental) that are better for human health?
  • Do people of different cultural backgrounds, age groups, etc. require different types or doses of nature?
  • Do different clinical situations (i.e., asthma vs. heart problems, etc.) call for different nature encounters?

There’s also more interest in collaboration across science disciplines. At the University of Washington, we have a cross-campus Nature & Health group that welcomes all comers. It is hosted by REI and the UW Center for Creative Conservation. We discuss research plans, and lots of topics, including equity and diversity within urban forestry, and management plans for urban forestry that include human health. 

What’s next with your research?

I’m working with Health Canada and Natural Resources Canada on a literature review of city trees and human health response, and estimate that an article will be ready to submit in about six months. The next step would be to monetize those health benefits. Then in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service, I will be teaming up to develop a Health Metrics Toolkit for community-oriented projects. It will be sort of like i-Tree, but with a human health orientation. It will allow communities to measure the health outcomes of their local programs. Ages and stages . . . lately I’m elevating my interest in human health and nature research to broader situations such as community level metrics or city level policy.

Do you have any final thoughts or words of wisdom you’d like to share?

Trees and arboriculture are important. But I think we should take urban forestry to another level in many communities. Trees are part of human health solutions, but we may need to take a broader look at how we define nature in cities and who we partner with.


Leading Thoughts – May 2018...

By J. Eric Smith, TREE Fund President and CEO

I live in downtown Chicago and work in Naperville, Illinois, with about a 70-mile roundtrip home-to-office commute each day. I cover most of that distance on trains, but there’s about six miles each day that I do on foot. While the weather is (finally!) halfway decent this month, my walking experience is still not exactly optimal, since I’m trudging through the funky smell (somewhere between cat urine and spoiled tuna) of the dreaded Bradford, Cleveland Select, and other ornamental pear trees, typically high on the “worst trees” list for arborists and urban foresters.

They are everywhere in and around Chicago, both in planned locations (I look out from my condo over a sea of them in Grant Park, and there are lines of them at Naperville’s train station) and in unfortunate, unplanned sites; the supposedly-sterile invaders have gone feral over the years, cross-pollinating with other pear trees, their often-thorny, always-brittle spawn popping up aggressively as weeds, to the detriment of other species. I grew up in a part of the country that was devastated by kudzu, and there is an increasing awareness that Bradford and related ornamental pear crosses may be an even more disastrous and expensive-to-mitigate plague than the creeping vines that ate the Carolinas.

And yet: in the past year, new sections of the Chicago River Walk have been completed near the confluence of the North and South Forks. I watched the construction and was pleased to see many of the scientific planting principles we espouse being deployed in the preparation stages – only to be disappointed when they ended up putting in ornamental pears! The developers of these new municipal assets must be aware of the fact that they are planting “bad” trees to get a few weeks’ worth of pretty flowers each year, but somehow their life cycle arithmetic and aesthetic considerations still point to ornamental pears. And that’s just wrong.

TREE Fund can play a role in better educating urban and municipal planners, developers, landscape architects, civil engineers and other related professionals to not make such mistakes. In fact, this is the purpose of the Bob Skiera Memorial Building Bridges Fund, which will award grants for programs to educate decision-makers outside of our core arboricultural disciplines on what to do – and what not to do – with our urban and community forests.

We are within about $20,000 of the $500,000 goal to activate this fund in 2019. If you’d consider making a gift to the Skiera Fund, we’ll be better able in the years ahead to fight the blight of bad, bad trees.


Celebrate National Bike Month with a don...


May 14 to 20 ONLY – every $50 gift to the Tour earns you a chance to win a pair of Canopy Pants, courtesy of Arborwear. These high-quality, breathable pants are perfect for work or outdoor adventures. The prize drawing will take place on May 23, and the winner will be notified promptly.

Thank you for supporting the Tour and good luck!


May 2018 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly newsletter, the TREPress.

April 2018 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly newsletter, the TREPress.

Seeking nominations for Ken Ottman Volun...

The Ken Ottman Volunteer Award is given annually to an individual whose contributions on behalf of TREE Fund are exemplary; previous recipients of the award are listed below. The Ottman Award does not exclusively recognize accomplishments for the prior twelve months. A committee of former recipients chaired by Jim Barborinas reviews nominations and makes the final award. Toward this end, we are seeking your nomination(s), should you have one or any, for this important recognition. If you would like to nominate one or more recipients, please send an email to Barbara Duke with the following information by April 30, 2018:

  1. Name of the person you are nominating:
  2. How the nominee supports the mission of TREE Fund (50-250 words):
  3. Which TREE Fund activities did the nominee participate in or support: Board of Trustees, TREE Fund Committees, Special Events, Fundraising
  4. Provide a brief quote describing why this nominee should receive the Ken Ottman Award (100 words max.) (May be used in TREE Fund publications):

We plan to announce this year’s recipient at TREE Fund After Hours held at the ISA International Conference in August.


Previous Ottman Award Winners:

2017:   Hallie Dozier and Frazer Pehmoeller

2016:   Beth Buchanan

2015:   Dick Rideout

2014:   Warren Hoselton

2013:   Terrill Collier and Wendy Robinson

2012:   Michael Neal

2011:   John Lloyd

2010:   Jim Zwack

2009:   John W. Goodfellow

2008:   Jim Barborinas

Tee off for TREE Fund at the Trees &...

Join us for an afternoon of golf in support of tree research and education at the 24th annual Asplundh Golf Outing to benefit TREE Fund.

Who: YOU!

What: Four-person scramble golf

Where: Shoreline Golf Course, 210 Locust Road, Carter Lake, IA 51510

When: Monday, August 27, 2018

Why: Great golf and a good cause (supporting tree research and education)


Get details, register, or sponsor a hole through Asplundh Tree Expert.  


Volunteer Spotlight: Peter Sortwell...

This month’s volunteer spotlight is shining on Peter Sortwell, Founder and CEO of Arborwell, and first-time Tour des Trees rider. Peter has always wanted to ride the Tour, but his busy life as an arborist, business owner, community volunteer and father left little time to pursue that goal. At his recent retirement as Chairman of the Board of TCIA, the organization surprised him with “seed” money for a Tour fundraising campaign. Peter immediately registered to ride and in the first week had turned that initial gift into ~$7,800 for tree research and education!

We are grateful for Peter’s many contributions to the tree community through the years, his enthusiasm for the Tour, and his leadership at TCIA that benefits all of us in the industry. Thank you, Peter, for your support of TREE Fund and its mission!


To suggest someone for the Spotlight, please contact Karen Lindell.


March 2018 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly newsletter, the TREE Press.

Coming soon - your chance to win!

Celebrate the start of summer the week of June 18-24 with a gift to the Tour des Trees. Every $50 donation during that period earns you a chance to win an Arborwear Stretch Cambium Jacket!

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