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June 8, 2021

UNE grant for digital tree inventory may help train future 'urban foresters'

Aerial view of UNE campus in Biddeford Courtesy / University of New England The University of New England has campuses in Biddeford, shown here from above, and in Portland and Tangier, Morocco.

The University of New England on Monday said it has received a $23,000 grant to conduct a digital inventory of trees on its Biddeford and Portland campuses, and the inventory may be used as a teaching tool.

The grant, a mix of state and matching funds, was awarded by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Maine Forest Service, as UNE prepares to hold its first urban forestry course this summer.

The $23,000 Project Canopy Assistance Grant will go toward the design, creation, and implementation of a digital campus and street tree inventory based on geographic information systems technology.

UNE said the project aims to collect the tree data necessary to develop a comprehensive sustainability and management arboricultural plan for UNE's Portland and Biddeford campuses.

“Conducting a state-of-the-art digital tree inventory is considered essential for any university, city, or other organization committed to urban greening,” said Michael Duddy, adjunct assistant teaching professor in UNE's School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and School of Marine and Environmental Programs.

“The Project Canopy grant will allow UNE to significantly build on its ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship."

UNE’s project will be completed in two phases, the first of which will include designing and building out the GIS platform for the inventory and using aerial photographs and other sources to locate campus and street trees and build an initial data set.

The second phase will include conducting inventory in the field as well as collecting data on each of the trees inventoried. Funding from the grant will support training for two student interns on tree identification and proper methods of data collection.

Later on, the digital inventory will be used as a teaching asset for courses in urban forestry, focusing on the care and management of tree populations in urban settings. The first of those courses will start this summer.

"Urban forestry lies at the heart of the global urban greening movement,” Duddy said. “The new course offering, the ability to hire and train urban forestry interns, and the tree inventory itself will all help provide UNE students with globally important skills and education.”

The project will be overseen by Duddy and three UNE faculty colleagues: Marcia Moreno-Báez, a visiting assistant teaching professor in the School of Marine and Environmental Programs; and environmental studies professors Pam Morgan and Thomas Klak.

“This tree identification and inventory project is an antidote for our culturally pervasive ‘plant blindness,’” said Klak, who has been on a longtime mission to restore the American chestnut tree.

“We all see hundreds of trees every day, but many of us do not know their names," he added. "We inhabit the country’s eastern forest ecosystem, and, in order to live harmoniously and healthfully within it, we need to recognize and understand it. This project helps in that regard.”

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