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Leading Thoughts (January 2019)...

By J. Eric Smith, TREE Fund President and CEO

It’s always an extra treat to travel when you’re a tree nerd, since you get to play “canopy compare and contrast” between your home turf and your destination(s) while you are abroad. My wife and I greeted 2019 with a trip to London and  Paris, and my FitBit tells me we walked 160,000 steps (about 80 miles) over the course of the week, much of that time spent with me ooo-ing and ahh-ing at special street trees or historic park trees or “what the heck is that?” trees we passed as we ambled about.

I love London Planes (Platanus × acerifolia) anywhere I spot them, and it was   particularly delightful to see so many mighty specimens at the heart of their namesake city, their dappled trunks striking in sun or shade, and their distinctive seed balls providing “winter interest” as you surveyed the streetscape. In Paris we strolled the Bois de Boulogne with its native and curated forests, and we admired the Tilias that abound throughout the city, and which lay people call  lindens, or basswoods, or limes, depending on where they make their homes.

We spent a lot of time in airplanes getting to and from Europe, and also had a nice EuroStar train trip via the “Chunnel” between London and Paris. This gave me a hefty amount of quiet time to read (more than I normally have, anyway), and the tree nerd in me was happy with that prospect, too, as I read a most  remarkable book about trees, and people, and people and trees called The Overstory by Richard Powers.

I have to assume that if you’re reading this article in the TREE Fund newsletter that you’re at least a little bit of a tree nerd yourself, too, and so I most heartily recommend this book to you. It’s a transcendent novel that twines the tales of a half dozen wildly dissimilar humans into a single, solid, towering, powerful creative monument, with every step of the story given shape and substance by trees. The New York Times perhaps captured this concept best in their review of the book, where they noted “humans are merely underbrush; the real protagonists are trees.”

While The Overstory clearly resonates with those who don’t necessarily love or know their trees (it was shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, awarded to the best novel in the English language issued each year), it was positively electrifying to me given my professional avocation. It’s not every day that mycorrhizal networks pop up and play key roles in a work of fiction, after all, but they’re quiet superstars here.

Like all great novels, The Overstory leaves the reader with a lot to consider when it’s run its course, and while not everyone may agree with all of Powers’ implied or explicit lessons or morals, I can guarantee that his words, his stories, the magic of his prose, and most of all his trees will resonate with you all. Happy reading, and let me know what you think!

January 2019 news from TREE Fund...

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

Leading Thoughts (December 2018)...

By J. Eric Smith, TREE Fund President and CEO

As I write my final “Leading Thoughts” column for 2018, we are deep into TREE Fund’s annual year-end operating appeal. I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for a long time, so I’ve come to associate these appeals with the season: there’s turkey, there’s shopping, there’s revelry, there’s resolutions, and in the midst of all that, there’s a last push to raise funds, to give donors both “feel-good” experiences and year-end tax benefits. 

I wrote back in September about how changes in Federal law may impact the tax benefit of those gifts, but also how important it is that we all still “keep charity charitable,” empowering and celebrating the good work that nonprofits do in so many ways, in so many places, for so many people. That charitable intent is particularly important when it comes to the unrestricted operating funds that many year-end appeals support. They may not have pizazz of brick and mortar giving, nor the permanence of endowments, but they are crucial to what we do.

For some folks outside of the nonprofit world, that phrase – “unrestricted operating funds” – may have unintended negative connotations: “Wait, you can do anything you want with it? Are you going to just spend it on overhead? Is that okay? Maybe I’d better give to this restricted endowment pool instead.” But all it really means is that we have the flexibility to support our “areas of greatest need” internally, and for TREE Fund, that need largely equates to people!

When you remove grants we pay from our operating budget, about three-quarters of the remaining expenses pay for the folks who actually do the work to fulfill our mission – and do it well, if it’s not inappropriate for me to say so. That’s Barb managing the grants, Karen communicating our research findings, Monika educating our donors, Maggie managing community engagement, including the Tour des Trees that Paul directs, Dipika keeping the books, and Russ ensuring our computer systems support it all. Plus me, often on the road, doing my best to champion tree science and the professionals who benefit from it.

Some of those folks you may know, some not. Some are employees, some are contractors, some part-time, some full. All are passionate about our mission, work hard to pursue it, and are largely supported by unrestricted operating funds, secured via appeals, partnership or events. So anytime you email, call, engage on social media, read a newsletter article, share a research finding, or see a TREE Fund team member in person giving you great service in pursuit of our shared goal, then that’s what “unrestricted operating funds” are all about: it’s the people who make the mission.

I hope you’ll support our team, just as I do with my own family’s gifts to TREE Fund. They earn your trust; they are good stewards of your gifts. I’m proud to work with them all.

December 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.

Leading Thoughts (November 2018)...

By J. Eric Smith, TREE Fund President and CEO

Strategic planning is a key governance responsibility for nonprofit boards. The ideal planning process can be broadly viewed as an iterative, two-part undertaking. In the first part of the process, an organization defines a vision for the future that is consonant with its mission. In the second part of the process, the organization then allocates financial, capital and human resources toward achieving this vision. The two parts of the process must be linked with regular feedback mechanisms that allow both vision and resource allocation to evolve, together, to meet emergent opportunities and challenges.

Last year, TREE Fund’s Board of Trustees went through such a thorough planning and visioning process that resulted in a Board-approved three year Strategic Plan that we’ve been using to guide our activities since January 1, 2018. As we approach the end of the first year of this plan, I’m pleased to note that we’re on track with all deliverables, and looking ahead to 2019 with a strong and clear sense of where we want to be, and what we need to do to get there. As a nonprofit executive, I can tell you from first-hand experience that it is a true professional boon to have such a clear and solid plan in place, and to have such strong buy-in from the board for implementing it.

That being said, good strategic planners must recognize a principle most eloquently elucidated by General Dwight D. Eisenhower during planning for the invasion of Normandy: “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Planning is a dynamic, ongoing enterprise, not an occasional activity resulting in a static, printed plan that is likely to become obsolete soon after it is created. Planning is a process, plans are tools – and no tool should ever be given precedence over the process it supports.

So as we work to wind down our 2018 program year in a position of strength, we need to evaluate what we’ve done and what we’ve learned, and revisit our plan through that lens, ideally adding another year to the back end as we call it a wrap on the front-end year. A key part of this process is feedback from our stakeholders, so I invite you all to look at our plan on the About/Documents page of our website, and let us know if you think we’re missing any marks or need to consider different, new or better ways to continue fulfilling our charitable mission and provide excellent service to you, our supporters and customers.

November 2018 news from TREE Fund...

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

New Grants Available in 2019...

TREE Fund is pleased to announce the completion of two endowment funds which will both issue inaugural grants in 2019. 

The $25,000 Bob Skiera Memorial Fund Building Bridges Initiative Grant supports projects which will help arborists and urban foresters communicate the value of trees and urban forests on a national basis through technology transfer and engagement with developers, builders, civil engineers, city planners, elected officials and other policymakers. 

The $10,000 Barborinas Family Fund Grant supports projects focused on tree planting and transplantation techniques, and the improvement of tree varieties for urban conditions, to include investigations into root and soil science. 

Many thanks to the Skiera and Barborinas families for their visionary leadership on these funds, and to all who helped make these grants a reality.

Leading Thoughts (October 2018)...

By J. Eric Smith, TREE Fund President and CEO

Earlier this month, I attended the International Urban Forestry Congress (IUFC) in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Congress was a unique gathering presented by Tree Canada, Pacific Northwest Chapter of ISA, University of British Columbia,
Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, and other partners. Nearly 800 people from 30 countries participated, and we were blessed with fascinating and useful lectures, engaging panel discussions, exceptional networking opportunities, and an unparalleled “battery charging” opportunity to spend time with colleagues away from our proverbial trenches, sharing our passions for urban forests around our ever-more-connected (for better or worse) tiny blue marble of a planet.

It was good to be reminded that TREE Fund is part of that global research network, and not just an Illinois corporation, nor just a United States nonprofit, nor just a North American charity. This is reflected in our grantmaking programs: in partnership with the Canadian TREE Fund, we typically award two Jack Kimmel International Grants annually, and a growing number of grants from our other programs have been going abroad in recent years too.

I know some readers may not consider this a positive trend, since I have had domestic partners challenge me on why they should support us if we are sending money overseas, just as I have had ISA Chapters ask why they should support us if researchers in their regions are not receiving TREE Fund grants. Regionalism is a strong force among human beings, nationally and internationally. But trees (and their symbiotic companions and parasitic predators) do not recognize property lines, nor do they hew to municipal borders, nor do they heed state lines, nor do they respect international borders.

Trees are migratory organisms across our ever-changing world, as they slowly and naturally respond to global environmental changes, or rapidly stake out new turf when we select them to line streets and shade homes on continents where nature never would have taken them. And while human preferences and prejudices vary widely from nation to nation, both native and non-native urban trees living in temperate Mediterranean climates like those found in Beirut, Perth, Los Angeles, Rome, Tunis and elsewhere may benefit from exactly the same areas of rigorous scientific inquiry, regardless of where the researchers disclosing it live and work.

I say all this as an older, pragmatic and practical American professional, and not as an inexperienced, pie-in-the-sky Utopian. Trees are a global resource, and tree science is globally relevant, regardless of any of our social, economic, religious or political leanings. TREE Fund is a small – but mighty – player in this planetary network, and we become stronger every time we gather with colleagues from around the world on behalf of the planet’s urban canopies.

October 2018 news from TREE Fund...

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

Is that tie-in point safe to use?...

By Brian Kane, PhD, Massachusetts Arborists Association Professor of Commercial Arboriculture at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst

Figure 1 shows the Straightpoint LLC load cell used to measure forces during the Ascent event at the 2017 ITCC in Washington, DC.

Tree climbing is an inherently dangerous task. Working at height is dangerous by itself; but add the use of sharp cutting tools and rigged pieces of wood to the job, and it’s not surprising that our industry has a comparatively high incident rate. To increase safety while climbing, climbers must choose a tie-in-point (TIP) that can bear the loads applied as the climber ascends and then works in the tree. Failure of the TIP isn’t an everyday occurrence, but it has happened, even during an ascent. To reduce the likelihood of failure of the TIP, climbers attempt to assess its load-bearing capacity by visual inspection and performing a “bounce test,” but very little research has explored the likelihood of TIP failure.

In 2017, at the ITCC in Washington, DC, I measured forces at the TIP during the “Ascent” event – this is the event that replaced the secured footlock. From the measurements, I wanted to learn how large were the forces at the TIP, what was their frequency of application, and whether they differed among different ascent techniques that competitors used. Most competitors used two foot ascenders, but some footlocked and others used a single foot ascender.

To measure forces, the team running the Ascent event installed a load cell between the anchor point on the tree and the rigging hub that climbers attached their lines to. The load cell (Figure 1), made by Straightpoint LLC, measures the force 100 times each second, so it’s possible to obtain a detailed record of the forces throughout each competitor’s ascent—this is called a force time history. Figure 2 shows the force time history for a ten second segment of one competitor’s footlock—it might remind you of an EKG. The time history shows a series of peak forces as the climber extended their body upwards after locking the rope with their feet. The peak forces occur at regular time intervals, which describes the frequency of peak forces, that is, how many peak forces occur in a specified time interval. Using two foot ascenders applied about the same force as footlocking, but at twice the frequency—twice as many peaks in the same time interval.

Figure 2 The black line shows changes in the load on an anchor point during ten seconds of an ascent.

To assess the likelihood of failure of a TIP during an ascent, we need to know both the amount of the peak force, and how frequently it’s applied. The reason for this is because as its loaded by the ascending climber, the TIP bounces up and down. The interaction of the repeated application of peak loads with the natural tendency of the TIP to respond by bouncing may cause the effect of the force to be multiplied. This means that even if the peaks are well below the load-bearing capacity of the TIP, the bouncing action can increase the likelihood of failure.

In general, peak forces were about 1.3 – 1.4 times body weight, and, depending on how long the ascent lasted, there could be 20 – 50 peak loads in total. This type of loading on the TIP is very different from slowly applying a force with a winch to a branch to measure attachment strength of branches, indicating that future experiments should consider applying forces to the TIP that would mimic the forces applied during an ascent.

This work wouldn’t have been possible without a John Z. Duling grant from TREE Fund, which paid for the Straightpoint, LLC load cell. One of the limitations of the data collected at the ITCC is that the TIP was atypically large (which was a necessary safety precaution when more than 60 competitors would be ascending during the event). To address this limitation, and using the same Straightpoint LLC load cell, I am currently measuring forces during ascents on TIPs of typical size. And I plan to repeat those measurements when the trees are leafless to see how much of an effect the leaves have on damping the bounce motion of the TIP. With funds from the Duling grant, I also purchased two Straightpoint LLC “Impact Blocks”—arborist rigging blocks with built-in load cells—to measure forces in rigging systems, which I have been doing this summer. I think these projects, and others I’ve worked on that TREE Fund has previously supported, will help arborists work more safely, and I’m grateful for TREE Fund’s support.


You can find more details about measuring forces during the 2017 ITCC in the following publications:

  • Kane, B. 2018. Loading experienced by a tie-in point during ascents. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 34:78-84.
  • Kane, B. 2018. Understanding the likelihood of failure of an anchor point during an ascent: Part II. Arborist News 27(2):56-57.
  • Kane, B. 2018. Understanding the likelihood of failure of an anchor point during an ascent: Part I. Arborist News 27(1):58-60.


Dr. Brian Kane is the Massachusetts Arborists Association Professor of Commercial Arboriculture at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. He has published over 50 scholarly papers, most of them have considered topics in arboricultural biomechanics and tree worker safety. He previously served on the ISA’s Board of Directors and currently chairs the Nominating and Elections Committee. Before joining academia, he worked as a production arborist and he maintains his ISA Certified Arborist credential. He has competed in several regional tree climbing championships, placing 4th in New England in 2006.


See Dr. Kane’s research supported by TREE Fund.

Watch Arboricultural Biomechanics, a 2018 TREE Fund webinar featuring Dr. Kane.

Behind the Research: Meet Dr. Brian Kane


Behind the Research: Meet Dr. Brian Kane...

It’s the first day of school at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Dr. Brian Kane is back from sabbatical. Amid the flurry of campus activity, Dr. Kane takes a break to talk about his background and work with me. Dr. Kane, the Massachusetts Arborists Association Professor of Commercial Arboriculture at UMass Amherst, is a leading figure in arboricultural biomechanics and tree worker safety, focusing his research on tree failure and gear failure. With his unassuming, casual manner, it’s surprising to know that he is one of very few people who study this complex area of the physics underlying tree failure and arboricultural practices like pruning, cabling, rigging and climbing.

Brian grew up outside of New York City and remembers his early interest in trees was piqued by his dad’s Audubon Tree Guide book. He ran a landscaping business as a kid and loved climbing for a local municipal tree crew, but it took a degree in Political Science and an unsatisfactory desk job before he realized that the one constant throughout his life was that he liked trees. So he enrolled at UMass Amherst for a masters in Arboriculture and later a PhD, and he hasn’t looked back since.

At the start of his academic career, Brian was interested in the strength loss formulas that predicted the likelihood of tree failure based on how much decay existed in the trunk and branches. The formulas were theoretically sound, but had not been tested for reliability in real life scenarios. What he discovered was that the formulas did not take enough variables into account for such a complex assessment. His work played a role in the development of ISA’s tree risk assessment qualification (TRAQ), which has helped to make the risk assessment process more objective.

Brian’s current work is focused on arborist safe work practices where there is a deficit of research. Specifically he’s exploring the forces that occur (1) when a climber ascends into a tree and (2) in different parts of a rigging system. Because there are so many variables that affect the likelihood of tree failure and many different climbing and rigging techniques and tools, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a formula for the safest way to climb or rig every tree. Dr. Kane sees his work as laying the groundwork for safety improvements by helping us understand the physics underlying rigging and climbing. This knowledge allows us to identify the key points or variables for improved safety or reducing the likelihood of failure.

As you might imagine, conducting arboricultural biomechanics research involves everything from people climbing trees to crunching physics and math equations. Dr. Kane emphasizes that his work is a collaborative effort, and he is grateful for all the help from his students, alumni, colleagues in the university’s Engineering school, etc. And he’s also happy to use himself as a test subject – just another reason to continue climbing trees after all these years. 


Read Dr. Kane’s September 2018 article, Is that tie-in point safe to use?

See Dr. Kane’s research supported by TREE Fund.

Watch Arboricultural Biomechanics, a 2018 TREE Fund webinar featuring Dr. Kane.

Leading Thoughts (September 2018)...

By J. Eric Smith, TREE Fund President and CEO

As the leaves begin to color and drop here in Northern Illinois over the next few weeks, we will be rolling out our individual year-end fundraising appeal, as hard as it is to believe that the end of the fiscal year is already drawing near. We’re on track for another great year in 2018, but the unrestricted operating funds earned via the year-end appeal are crucial to our ongoing success, so my thanks to all in advance for considering us in your charitable plans in the weeks ahead.

The “charitable” component of that sentiment is more important than usual this year, as many of you are no doubt evaluating how changes in the Federal tax code could impact the deductibility of your gifts to TREE Fund and other nonprofits. While TREE Fund is not in the business of providing financial advice, we do know that many of you may find it financially beneficial this year to use the increased standard deduction in lieu of itemizing your deductions (including charitable giving), which will reduce the strictly financial tax return benefit you receive from each dollar of your charitable giving in 2018.

I respectfully hope, though, that you do not change your giving plans for that reason, since the charitable good you do for TREE Fund is actually independent of any quid pro quo tax benefit you receive as a result of your philanthropy. Charity is, by its very definition, the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need – and TREE Fund does indeed need your continued support if we are to build on and expand our research and education programs going forward, especially as Federal funding for urban forestry may decline in parallel with lower revenues from Federal taxes.

TREE Fund is a charity, at bottom line, worthy of support for the good work we do, and for the benefits that our research and education results deliver to communities around the world. It is only through your charitable support that we are fully able to be a force for good in the world, funding vital, beneficial work that few others do. I’ve spent most of my career in the nonprofit sector, and I know that when push comes to shove, that sense of doing something righteous, and making a difference through your gifts, is the truly fundamental motivator for donors, one that resonates deeply in ways that simple monetary benefit from tax deductibility cannot.

Here’s hoping you share that sentiment with me, and that we can continue to count on you to do good for a good cause this year when you receive a letter from me asking for your support in the weeks ahead. You may or may not receive a meaningful tax benefit from giving to us this year, but the moral and ethical benefit of sharing your resources openly and without restriction on behalf of TREE Fund or other charities you respect is profound and lasting. At the end of the day, it’s simply a good thing to do – and I remain personally committed to ensuring that we leverage your support widely, and serve as responsible stewards for funds entrusted to our care.


Your voice on the future of arboricultur...

TREE Fund’s booth at this year’s International Society of Arboriculture Annual Conference in Columbus, OH, centered on “The Future of Arboriculture,” so booth visitors were asked to vote for the topics they feel are most important to the future of arboriculture.

Given that tree care is a dangerous field, it’s not surprising that safety, including workforce practices, tree biomechanics, and risk assessment and management was seen as the number one area on which to focus. Right behind safety was the foundation of arboriculture – roots and soil research. Participants also cited climate change and extreme weather as an important factor impacting the future of the field. Rounding out the top five responses were pests/invasives/diseases and the labor challenges the tree care industry currently faces, including recruiting, training, and engaging women in the workforce.

The good news is that TREE Fund research and initiatives are right in line with these priorities. You can find studies and resources related to each topic by clicking the links below.

  1. Safety/biomechanics/risk assessment and management – In addition, the Frank E. Gamma, Sr. Arboriculture Education Fund supports workforce safety training through TCIA’s Arborist Safety Training Institute.
  2. Roots and soil
  3. Climate change and extreme weather
  4. Pests/invasives/diseases
  5. Workforce – Many of our Arboriculture Education Grants have funded programs designed to get youth outdoors and interested in careers in tree care. Our scholarships support students training for work in arboriculture and urban forestry. The Collier Arborist Training Trust Fund has been established to foster, promote, and support the teaching of practical applied arboriculture.

Thank you to all who participated in the voting!


September 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.

Landscape Below Ground IV: International...

The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL
Monday, October 15 through Wednesday, October 17

Since 1993, the Landscape Below Ground Conference has provided a forum for presentation of the latest research and management practices in all aspects of tree root development in urban soils.

Register before October 8 for an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the latest research and best management practices for establishing and maintaining trees’ roots in challenging urban situations. Top scientists and practitioners from around the world (including many TREE Fund researchers) will present knowledge from a wide range of disciplines, to help managers and policymakers choose, site, plant, and care for healthier, longer-lived trees by focusing on trees’ critical and vulnerable root systems. Speakers will address such topics as the design and constraints of planting trees in urban streetscapes, nursery production, soil selection and amendment, tree root architecture, and tree stability.

Learn more and register.

Leading Thoughts (August 2018)...

By J. Eric Smith, TREE Fund President and CEO

When I was hired as TREE Fund’s President and CEO three years ago, I was asked to provide some biographical information to help our supporters get a sense of who I was and what I was bringing to the organization. One of the questions posed – “What’s your favorite tree?” – seemed to be a simple one, but it actually was and remains something of a stumper for me. 

How do you answer that question, really? As a tree lover (or tree nerd, per my family), it’s a challenge right up front to decide whether to pick a single species, or a single individual. I lived in Latham, New York for nearly 20 years, and there was one huge white willow tree (Salix alba) in my neighborhood that I adored every time I passed by it, but if I picked
that one, then it wouldn’t be meaningful to anybody outside of Latham. In my column here two months ago, I wrote about a longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) at my childhood home that was wrapped tightly with wisteria vines. I loved it dearly as a kid, but know as an adult that it was a poorly located mess, just begging for removal.

So picking individual trees is probably a bad idea for media purposes, but is picking a single species any easier? My opinions change by the minute, depending on where I am or the time of the year. Right now in Chicago, I am loving the swamp white oaks (Quercus bicolor), and I can’t resist reaching out and stroking their leaves when I walk past them; shiny and leathery on top, fuzzy and soft on the bottom, just wonderful for tactile people like me. But a month or so ago, as I was training for the Tour des Trees, the American Lindens (Tilia Americana) were in bloom, and their
tiny sweet flowers were like giant collective air fresheners for the city, making my riding experience more deliciously fragrant than is normally the case in a huge city like mine.

How could I pick one of those species over the other? Or over the one that moves me the most next month, or in the next city I visit? Honestly, I couldn’t, and can’t. But three years ago, I felt like I needed to give some answer to that seemingly innocuous question, lest I come across as difficult to our staff, so I picked the Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana), the tree most closely identified with my Low Country South Carolina roots. (Well, other than our State tree, Sabal palmetto – but that’s technically a grass). So that’s what the record shows, and it’s a reasonable answer, I guess, but I am reserving the right to change it, today, tomorrow, and any time in the future.

New Tree Species Selection Guide Availab...



TREE Fund researchers, Dr. Andrew Hirons and Dr. Henrik Sjöman, have just published Tree Species Selection for Green Infrastructure: A Guide for Specifiers, a new, free guide written to assist anyone with an interest in selecting trees for green infrastructure – including arborists, architects, civil and structural engineers, designers, landscape architects, landscape contractors, non-profit organizations, urban planners, and other tree stewards.

The publication provides guidance on selecting appropriate species for a range of contrasting planting scenarios, and it includes information for over 280 species on their use-potential, size and crown characteristics, natural habitat, environmental tolerance, ornamental qualities, potential issues to be aware of, and notable varieties.

Some of the advice in this guide is based on findings from research funded by TREE Fund. You can read or download a copy of the guide HERE.


2019 Tour des Trees: Save the Dates...

The 2019 Tour des Trees will take place September 15 to September 21, 2019, with a planned hub in Nashville, and a route that will take riders through Kentucky and Tennessee. Mark your calendar, and get more details about the ride HERE

TREE Fund awards over a quarter million ...


Contact: Karen Lindell

630-369-8300 x-203

News release in PDF format 


TREE Fund awards over a quarter million dollars for

tree research and education projects

Naperville, IL, August 13, 2018 – TREE Fund has awarded over $260,000 for urban tree research and education in its spring 2018 grant-making season. With these new awards, the 501(c)3 charity has provided over $3.6 million in grants and scholarships since its inception in 2002.

“Our spring round of awards this year continues TREE Fund’s strong commitment to preserving our core research and education grant-making portfolio, while aggressively pursuing new lines to support and sustain our industry,” says TREE Fund President and CEO J. Eric Smith. “We were particularly proud to award the first Utility Arborist Research Fund research grant and Bonnie Appleton Memorial Fund scholarship this year after completing those campaigns in 2017, and our innovative new partnership with Penn State Altoona, Asplundh, Corteva, PECO and FirstEnergy to continue vegetation management work at the historic Bramble and Byrnes test site in Pennsylvania demonstrates the creative ways we are collaborating with our partners to meet ongoing research needs effectively and efficiently, now and in the years to come.”   


2018 TREE Fund Research Grant Recipients

Hyland R. Johns Research Grant

Andrew Hirons, PhD (Myerscough College, UK) and Co-Investigator Henrik Sjöman, PhD (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden) aim to improve tree selection for stormwater management schemes and sites prone to waterlogging. In the study, “Enhancing the performance of urban storm water management schemes with tree selection: developing a new approach to accessing waterlogging tolerance in temperate trees,” Drs. Hirons and Sjöman will look at trees’ decline in sapflow under waterlogging and use this to quantitatively evaluate waterlogging tolerance. Data will be collected on the species’ drought tolerance as well. This combination of data will provide guidance on which species will perform best in these situations.

Safe Arborist Techniques Fund Grant

Alexander Laver (Tree Logic, working with Coventry University, UK) will use motion capture equipment to map the movements of a tree climber within the canopy of a tree. “Optimised techniques for arboreal activities” will then analyze the effect of different climbing methods on the climber’s body. The goal of this project is to be able to recommend best climbing methods that can keep climbers fit and healthy for a full and long career.


Utility Arborist Research Fund Grant

John Goodfellow (Bio-Compliance Consulting, Inc.) will supplement his previous work on constructing an economic business case for Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) on electric transmission rights-of-way (ROW) in this new study called, “The cost-effectiveness of integrated vegetation management.” This project will consider the many benefits of IVM, and will result in a more holistic assessment that includes both economic considerations and environmental externalities associated with IVM. The project will also include application of IVM methods on pipeline ROW. The goal is to produce a reference that will be useful to practitioners in selecting the least-costly and most beneficial ROW vegetation management techniques from a longer-term perspective of sustainability.

Sponsored Grant

Carolyn G. Mahan, PhD (Penn State Altoona) seeks to evaluate floral and faunal response to right-of-way management at three sites in Pennsylvania, including State Game Lands 33. “Long term effects of electrical right-of-way vegetation management on floral and faunal communities” will be conducted cooperation with the Center for Pollinator Research and the Frost Entomological Museum at Penn State University. 

Note: This project is sponsored by Asplundh Tree Experts, LLC; Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont; FirstEnergy Corp; and PECO Energy Company (an Exelon Company).


2018 TREE Fund Education Grant Recipients

Frank E. Gamma, Sr. Arboriculture Education Fund

Tree Care Industry Association Foundation (Londonderry, NH) – This grant supports the Arborist Safety Training Institute that brings high quality, local, and affordable safety training to working arborists. ASTI provides grants for job and safety training to minimize injury and promote overall workforce safety.

Ohio Chapter ISA Education Grant

Kent Roosevelt High School Forestry and Landscape Management Program (Kent, OH) – “Setting Young People Up for a Future in Arboriculture” is a program for high school students interested in tree care. With this grant, the school can provide students with updated climbing gear for an enhanced learning experience.



2018 TREE Fund Scholarship Recipients

$5,000 Robert Felix Memorial Scholarship

  • Jackson Chandler, Brigham Young University
  • Katrina Henn, Mississippi State University
  • Kaitlyn Pike, DePaul University

$3,000 Horace M. Thayer Scholarship – Brady Dauber, Cuyahoga Community College

$2,000 John Wright Memorial Scholarship – Michael Tilton, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

$3,000 Fran Ward Women in Arboriculture Scholarship – Maria Tranguch, Oregon State University

$5,000 Bonnie Appleton Memorial Scholarship – Rebecca Pobst, Michigan State University


About TREE Fund

Tree Research and Education Endowment (TREE) Fund is a 501(c)3 charity dedicated to the discovery and international dissemination of new knowledge in urban forestry and arboriculture (the science of caring for trees in a landscape). TREE Fund awards scholarships and education grants to engage and support the next generation of tree stewards, and multiple research grants to improve the science, safety and practice of arboriculture.

With support from individual donors and Partners, TREE Fund research has contributed to:

  • Improving conditions for tree growth in difficult sites
  • Developing strategies to manage diseases and pests that affect urban trees
  • Improving utility line clearing practices
  • Understanding air pollution reduction and carbon sequestration by trees
  • Determining the costs and benefits of urban trees   

For more information, visit

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August 2018 news from TREE Fund...

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

Davey Tree Establishes Educational Endow...

“All of us at TREE Fund are honored that Davey has chosen to have us serve as stewards and administrators for their new educational endowment fund. Davey has been incredibly influential in the evolution of the modern scientific tree care industry, while also demonstrating the myriad ways that a visionary company can create social and economic good for all the communities they touch with their work. This new long-term commitment to empowering arboriculture education is yet another profound example of Davey’s century-long commitment to making a difference in the world.” 

– J. Eric Smith, President and CEO of TREE Fund 


Read the full press release HERE.



July 2018 news from TREE Fund...

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

Spring 2018 TREE Fund Grant Awards ̵...


Hyland R. Johns Grant

Andrew Hirons, PhD and Henrik Sjöman, PhD, Myerscough College, UK

“Enhancing the performance of urban storm water management schemes with tree selection: developing a new approach to accessing waterlogging tolerance in temperate trees”

The increasing prominence of stormwater management schemes provides excellent opportunities for the integration of trees into new urban developments; however, there is considerable uncertainty over which species will perform best in these schemes. A notable feature of landscapes designed to manage stormwater is that the substrates used are very free draining. This means that the tree species used must be tolerant to periods of both waterlogging and drought (water deficit).

This project aims to develop a new trait that can be used to develop robust recommendations on the tolerance of trees to waterlogging. This will form part of a constellation of traits that can be used to characterise the tolerance of species to a suite of key stressors in urban landscapes.

As sapflow in trees integrates the aerial and underground environments it has significant value in assessing the physiological activity of different species under contrasting environmental conditions. This study will look at the decline in sapfow under waterlogging and use this to quantitatively evaluate a range of species’ waterlogging tolerance. Further data will be collected on the species’ drought tolerance. It is anticipated that this information will transform the confidence of recommendations for stormwater management and provide a model for others in the research community to quantitatively evaluate tolerance to waterlogging. The overall goal of the project is to improve the confidence of tree selection for stormwater management schemes and sites prone to waterlogging.


Safe Arborist Techniques Fund Grant

Alexander Laver and James Shippen, PhD, Tree Logic (Working with Coventry University, UK)

“Optimised techniques for arboreal activities”

Recent advances in biomechanical motion analysis equipment has enabled the measurement of three-dimensional human movement within environments previously inaccessible. Previously motion analysis was performed using optical tracking equipment which, whilst accurate, was unsuitable for use outside and excluded its application to tree climbing. However motion capture equipment is now available which uses inertial tracking sensors and can operate in more realistic scenarios such as within the canopy of a tree. With this kit we are going to be able to map the movements of a tree climber as they climb, the data will then give us a body map showing the skeleton and muscle structure of the climber. We plan to record different access and climbing methods to analyse the effect on the climber body. We then plan to look at the task in the tree and work positioning options when undertaking those tasks. Having captured this information we can target a study, working with the climbers of mixed experience to see if climbers adapts their method to compensate for the stress and strains of the method or task. We hope this will guide us to recommend the best climbing methods for climbers to learn and master, to keep them fit and health and in the industry for a full and long career.


Utility Arborist Research Fund Grant

John Goodfellow, Bio-Compliance Consulting, Inc.

“The cost-effectiveness of integrated vegetation management”

There are 450,000 miles of transmission line operating at 35-765 kV across North America, with a total land area being managed as electric transmission rights-of-way (ROW) estimated at between 9-11 million acres. There are an additional 306,000 miles of natural gas and liquid petroleum pipeline in North America, representing an estimated 2 million areas of land. The researchers believe that less than half the total land areas in ROW is currently being managed under an IVM regime.

A project team led by John W. Goodfellow, and including SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry professors Chris Nowak Ph.D. and John Wagner Ph.D., recently completed a project that defined the economic business case for Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) on electric transmission ROW. The scope of that project applied least-cost economic analysis methods that focus exclusively on the direct cost to the utility of IVM practices. That approach limited any consideration of the benefits of IVM to simply avoided cost. However, indirect costs and benefits of IVM are important considerations.

The project being proposed will supplement the least-cost project, broadening the assessment to include consideration of the many benefits of IVM, and will result in a more holistic assessment that includes both economic considerations and environmental externalities associated with IVM. This will be accomplished by applying a cost-effectiveness analysis method to empirically combine monetary costs of a management action with outcomes produced from that action that can also be quantified, but that are not easily monetized. The project will also update and broaden the focus of the original least-cost study to include application of IVM methods on pipeline ROW. The goal is to produce a reference that will be useful to practitioners in selecting the least-costly and most beneficial ROW vegetation management techniques from a longer-term perspective of sustainability.

Carolyn Mahan, Ph.D., (Penn State University) and Phillip Charlton, Ph.D., will be collaborating with Mr. Goodfellow and Dr. Nowak for this expanded study.


Sponsored Grant

Carolyn G. Mahan, PhD, Penn State Altoona

“Long term effects of electrical right-of-way vegetation management on floral and faunal communities”

This project will continue, replicate, and expand the research and outreach efforts on the effects of right-of-way maintenance on floral and faunal communities at State Game Lands (SGL) 33 in Centre County, Pennsylvania and Green Lane Research and Demonstration Area (GLR&D), in southeastern Pennsylvania. The research team will be collecting data to understand the response of native bees and breeding birds midway through the treatment cycle on both the SGL 33 and GLR&D sites. The research team will also evaluate floral and faunal response to right-of-way management on a third study area in central Pennsylvania. This third area will be one that is 100 feet wide and has been managed using typical integrated vegetation management techniques.  Finally, the project will add an examination of ground beetle diversity (using pitfall traps) to the existing research design at all three research locations. Ground beetles are useful as sensitive environmental indicators and can help evaluate if vegetation management treatments affect soil communities and processes. All research will be conducted in cooperation with the Center for Pollinator Research and the Frost Entomological Museum at Penn State University. 

Note: This project is sponsored by Asplundh Tree Experts, LLC, Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, FirstEnergy Corp; PECO Energy Company (an Exelon Company).

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

Need funding?

Applications for the Hyland R. Johns and UARF Research Grants, Ohio Chapter ISA Education Grant, and all scholarships are open January 15 through March 15.

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