Tree Fund header image

Recent Updates

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.

The Utility Arborist Research Fund: Adva...

By Randall H. Miller, Director of Research, Development an Industry Intelligence, CNUC


In the late 2000s, when I was on the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Journal of Arboriculture and Urban Forestry Editorial Board (now referred to Associate Editors), ISA sought International Organization for Standardization (ISO) accreditation for the journal. The application failed largely because too many articles did not meet ISO standards. Utility contributions were specifically identified as culprits, including some from researchers we held in high regard. The failure was an embarrassment for ISA, more so for the UAA, and awkward for me, as I had reviewed and approved some of the articles that were specifically criticized as scientifically deficient.

The message to the Editorial Board was clear: we had inadequately fulfilled our responsibility to ensure scientific rigor and had allowed publication of too many substandard articles for a periodical of the quality that the Journal of Arboriculture and Urban Forestry aspired to be. The board responded with steadfast focus on scientific methodology and statistical analysis. Rightly or wrongly, utility articles were particularly scrutinized. It became difficult for utility research to earn approval, as reviewers looked closely for flaws in methodology, analysis, and conclusions. Several utility research articles from prominent investigators were rejected, even though they resulted in solid recommendations we apply today. Consequently, utility researchers grew discouraged from submitting articles to the publication entirely. In fact, from 2010 to 2015, no utility-related research was published in the Journal of Arboriculture and Urban Forestry. That doesn’t mean utility research stopped, it just wasn’t printed in our profession’s scientific periodical.

The Utility Arborist Research Fund (UARF) holds promise to dramatically improve matters. As a past president of the UAA and former Chair of the TREE Fund Board of Trustees, I see clearly that the partnership between the two organizations is a strength of the UARF. TREE Fund is an ally of the UAA, and its board has a strong utility presence, with Will Nutter from Wright Tree Service, Dave Krause of Asplundh Tree Experts, and Tom Wolf of Davey. Progress toward and final achievement of the fund’s $1.0 million activation goal was monitored closely and celebrated at TREE Fund. The UAA and TREE Fund both have fundraising capabilities. The UAA can identify research topics, promote those of greatest benefit and recruit investigators. At the same time, TREE Fund is adept at managing endowed funds, prioritizing the highest quality projects, awarding the best among them grants, and publishing the results.

That doesn’t diminish the importance of strict adherence to scientific principles. TREE Fund’s Research Committee is committed to vetting research proposals, and will not award grants to projects they do not consider publishable. Utility investigators would benefit from collaborating with partners at full-time research institutions. After all, they are experts who understand how to design research that distinguishes significant results from those due only to chance. Approval from the TREE Fund Research Committee can assure us and the investigators that UARF projects are high-quality science, they will be published, and they will be successful.

Research has already been approved. The first UARF grants (2012 to 2014 ) supported John Goodfellow’s work to develop and prove a quantitative approach to determining optimal vegetation management (VM) spending and cycle times. The project Development of a Business Case for Scheduling Utility Vegetation Management (UVM) on a Preventive vs. Corrective Maintenance Basis was successful in constructing and validating a risk-based model that can support informed decisions on the tradeoffs between vegetation maintenance expense and tree-initiated risk to overhead distribution systems. The project report was issued in late 2015, and demonstrated that without consideration of the indirect cost impact of outages on customers, it may be difficult to establish a basis for preventive maintenance. A 2016 UARF grant to Christopher M. Halle, PhD (Sonoma State University) and Co-Investigator Claudia Luke, PhD (Sonoma State University) in cooperation with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Corporation compares the efficacy of mechanical-only versus mechanical-plus herbicide treatment in establishing low-growing native plant communities in a range of western ecosystems in the project called Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) On Powerline Rights of Ways: Effects Of Vegetation Treatment On Plant Communities and Wildlife Diversity. The effects on local animals and pollinators will also be studied.

These projects are only the start. Beginning in 2018, TREE Fund, in consultation with the UAA, will award one to five UARF grants totaling $50,000 annually (minimum award of $10,000). There is no end to potential projects—determining optimal cycle lengths, the efficacy of separate approaches to single and three phase lines, wire-border zone investigations outside of Pennsylvania and California, whether “ground-to-sky” pruning negatively affects mass damping, how to improve public perception of utility arboriculture, etc.

The UARF has the potential to take us into a golden age of utility arboricultural research. By the UAA and TREE Fund working together with academic collaborators, we will position ourselves to dramatically improve our understanding of UVM, and better serve the companies for which we work as well as our customers, and ultimately our profession.


This article is courtesy of UAA Newsline Jan/Feb 2018. Content is reprinted with full permission of the publisher.

TREE Fund awards seventeen new grants in...



Contact: Karen Lindell

630-369-8300 x-203

News release in PDF format 


TREE Fund awards seventeen new grants in 2017

Funding empowers wide array of tree research and education projects across the globe


Naperville, IL, February 26, 2018 – TREE Fund is pleased to announce nearly $225,000 in new awards for urban tree research and education in 2017. With these grants, the 501(c)3 charity has provided over $3.4 million in funding since its inception in 2002.

Two of the 2017 awards are centered on improving worker safety in tree care, a critical focus in a perilous industry. The new Safe Arborist Techniques Fund grant line is looking at current safety standards, and the Frank E. Gamma, Sr. Arboriculture Education Fund supports Tree Care Industry Association’s Arborist Safety Training Institute, which brings high quality, local and affordable safety training to working arborists.

“The wide array of grants that TREE Fund awarded in 2017 demonstrates the extensive impact that we and our research partners can have on communities within and beyond the tree care industry,” notes TREE Fund President and CEO J. Eric Smith. “From the broad quantification of human health benefits gained from city trees to approaches for battling tree disease on a microbial level, we are seeking to empower tree care professionals at all levels, and to educate lay people and policy makers alike on the economic, health and aesthetic benefits of healthy urban canopies around the world.”  

2017 TREE Fund Hyland R. Johns Research Grant recipients:

Richard Hauer, PhD (University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point) is creating an easy-to-use tool to evaluate and track progress within urban forestry programs. Ultimately the “Sustainable urban forestry planning models and decision making dashboard” project will help urban forest planners create a story of the current state of their urban forestry program and identify areas to improve, thus leading to a sustainable urban forest program and tree population.

Kathleen Wolf, PhD (University of Washington) seeks to extract research about human health benefits specific to city trees and forests and conduct an economic valuation of such benefits. The “Urban forests for human health: a focused economic valuation” project will provide professionals in arboriculture, urban forestry, landscape design, etc. with additional data for justifying the costs of tree planning, planting and management.


2017 Safe Arborist Techniques Fund Grant recipient:

Brian Kane, PhD (University of Massachusetts Amherst) is collecting and analyzing safety standards from around the world in the “Arboricultural safety around the world” project. It will serve as a foundation for future studies into safe working practices in arboriculture.


2017 Directed Research Grant recipients:

Eric Wiseman, PhD (Virginia Tech) and Co-Investigator Sarah Gugercin (Virginia Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation) is cataloging organizations involved with arboriculture/urban forestry educational grant-making programs in recent years. The “Education Review Program” project will provide a thorough analysis on such programs to guide decision-making on future TREE Fund Arboriculture Education grants.

Andrew Koeser, PhD (University of Florida – Gulf Coast REC) and Co-Investigator Rich Hauer, PhD (University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point) aims to conduct a comprehensive review of all past TREE Fund-supported research in their study “Research Review Program.” Their work will gauge direct and indirect outcomes, outputs, and impacts of the funded projects. 


2017 John Z. Duling Grant recipient:

Nina Bassuk, PhD (Cornell University) seeks to improve tree transplant success and ultimately provide greater tree species diversity in the nursery industry via root manipulation. In the “Enhancing Tree Transplant Success through the Manipulation of Root Hydraulic Conductance” project, Dr. Bassuk will manipulate root growth to increase the rate and efficiency of water uptake, resulting in a production practice that can improve a tree’s ability to respond to transplant shock.


2017 Jack Kimmel International Grant recipients:

Kimmel grants are supported by Canadian TREE Fund and its riders in the Tour des Trees outreach and fundraising event.

Rachael Antwis, PhD and Co-Investigator Stephen Parnell, PhD (both University of Salford, U.K.) are exploring natural microbial communities of trees as a way to address emerging infectious diseases such as the chalara fungus infecting ash. The “Fighting microbes with microbes to protect our native trees” study aims to identify microbial signatures of ash resistance to chalara and markers of host gene expression to identify resistant trees for cultivation and reforestation. 

Liliana Franco-Lara, PhD and Co-Investigator Helena Brochero, PhD (both Universidad Militar Nueva Granada) aim to better understand the diseases caused by phytoplasma (a type of bacteria) that are affecting urban trees in Bogotá, including the strategically important Andean oak (Q. humboldtii). The “Identification of possible insect vectors of phytoplasmas in Quercus humboldtii Bonpla in Bogotá, Colombia” project will detect the insects associated with the Andean oak and identify the species that may be transmitting the bacteria. Findings will serve to define strategies to manage and reduce the spread of phytoplasmal diseases.


2017 Arboriculture Education Grant recipients:

Friends of the Urban Forest (San Francisco, CA) – The “Green Teens – Vocational Skills Job Training” initiative provides practical job skills training to low-income, high school aged youth. It is an integral part of the organization’s plans to expand and preserve San Francisco’s tree canopy, while empowering at-risk youth.

TreeFolks (Del Valle, TX) – With the “Youth Tree Climbing Initiative” TreeFolks will expand its active and educational urban forestry activities for underserved youth in Austin to include tree climbing.


2017 Ohio Chapter ISA Education Grant recipient:

Columbus State Community College (Columbus, OH) – The “Columbus State Arboriculture Education Expansion and Tree Care Academy Project” seeks to increase awareness of the field of arboriculture and create an entry point for the college’s new Arboriculture Technician Certificate. The weeklong Youth Tree Care Academy for students age 16+ provides a hands-on introduction to arboriculture as well as the certificate program. 


2017 Frank E. Gamma, Sr. Arboriculture Education Fund recipient:

Tree Care Industry Association Foundation (Londonderry, NH) – This grant supports the Arborist Safety Training Institute which works to bring 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.


2017 Scholarship recipients:

Robert Felix Memorial Scholarship

  • Laura Mantin, Humber College, ON, Canada
  • Conor Smith, University of New Hampshire

Horace M. Thayer Scholarship

Timothy Lentz, University of Delaware

John Wright Memorial Scholarship

Savannah Haines, University of Maine

Fran Ward Women in Arboriculture Scholarship

Jennifer Halterman, Pennsylvania State University


View all past recipients of TREE Fund grants at


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


#   #   #

February 2018 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly TREE Fund Bulletin.

January 2018 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly TREE Fund Bulletin.


Holiday Special: Donate for a Chance to ...

In the spirit of holiday giving, and thanks to a generous supporter who has offered this incentive, December 18 – 25, 2017, each $50 gift made to TREE Fund’s 15th Anniversary Appeal gives you a chance to win a $250 Visa gift card.
How nice would it be to have extra cash after the holidays for paying off bills or treating yourself?
Click the DONATE NOW button on the right or send a check to TREE Fund, 552 S. Washington St., Ste. 109, Naperville, IL 60540 (must be postmarked during the promotion period). Winner will be announced January 3, 2018.
100% of your tax-deductible gift to TREE Fund empowers tree research and education that helps keep the urban forest growing strong. Thank you for your support!

December 2017 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly TREE Fund Bulletin.

ASTI Awards Next Round of Training Grant...

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of TCIA Magazine, a publication of Tree Care Industry Association ( This content is reprinted with full permission of the publisher.

The Arborist Safety Training Institute (ASTI) recently awarded nearly $45,000 in grants to the organizations listed below that will use these funds to host safety-training workshops throughout the country. “When tree care workers learn proper practices, they begin to shift the culture of safety in our industry,” says Mark Garvin, TCIA president. “These ASTI workshops will help bring quality, local and affordable training to working arborists who will take their safety seriously and help promote overall workforce safety.” ASTI, launched by the Tree Care Industry Association Foundation (TCIAF) in 2013, provides grants to fund job and safety training to working arborists across the country. Funds for these grants are donated by tree care companies and equipment suppliers and distributors from around the country. 

  • Arborquest – Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Arborwear LLC – Chagrin Falls, OH
  • Asplundh Tree Experts – Titusville, FL
  • Bailey’s Inc. – Woodland, CA
  • Bandit of Texas – Mesquite, TX
  • Bob’s Tree Preservation – Lafayette, LA
  • BridgeWood Tree Care – Elk Grove, CA
  • GE Tree Service – Petersburg, IN
  • Iowa Arborist Association – Bertram, IA
  • ISA – Rocky Mountain Chapter – Westminster, CO
  • Kristoffer Rasmussen – Azle, TX
  • Long Island Arborist Association – Lindenhurst, NY
  • Mike’s Tree Company LLC – Brainerd, MN
  • Missouri Community Forestry Council – Joplin, MO
  • Oak Bros. Tree Removal and Stump Grinding – Bloomington, IL
  • Piedmont Arborist Consultant – Conyers, GA
  • Preservation Tree – Dallas, TX
  • RTL Forestry Products, Inc. – New Wilmington, PA
  • SSC Services – College Station, TX
  • The Mulch Center – Deerfield, IL
  • The Professional Tree Care Company – Berkeley, CA
  • United Tree Climber Association – Escondido, CA
  • Vermeer MidSouth – Little Rock, AR
  • Wasatch Arborists, Inc. – Kamas, UT
  • Wisconsin Arborist Association – Neenah, WI

The next ASTI grant application deadline is March 1, 2018. To learn more and apply for a grant, visit

TREE Fund is a proud supporter of ASTI, contributing through the Frank E. Gamma, Sr. Arboriculture Education Fund.


ISA Announces 2017-18 Donation to TREE F...

On Thursday, 5 October 2017, ISA President-elect Pedro Mendes Castro presented ISA’s 2017-18 donation of $56,000 to the Tree Research and Education Endowment (TREE) Fund. The donation was accepted by TREE Fund President and CEO J. Eric Smith following his presentation at the ISA Annual Leadership Workshop.

The donation is being made in two installments and will be used partially for general operating costs to support TREE Fund and the research it facilitates and also for the Bob Skiera Memorial Fund (the “Building Bridges” initiative). The Bob Skiera Memorial Fund supports the development of educational programs and materials to help arborists and urban foresters communicate the importance of the urban forest to urban planners and other decision makers. The Skiera Fund is dedicated to fostering a wider appreciation of the value of trees, their need for proper care, and their benefits to the environment.

As a non-profit foundation dedicated to the advancement of arboriculture and urban forestry, TREE Fund shares ISA’s commitment to scientific research, professional training, and public education. ISA’s increased financial support of TREE Fund advances the objectives of both organizations.


This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of ISA TODAY, a publication of International Society of Arboriculture ( This content is reprinted with full permission of the publisher.

November 2017 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly TREE Fund Bulletin.

Pre-work Tree Risk Assessment Part II...

This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of ARBORIST NEWS, a publication of International Society of Arboriculture ( This content is reprinted with full permission of the publisher.

In the last Simply Safe article on tree risk assessment (August 2017, pp. 64–65), I discussed the similarities between conducting a thorough, systematic, pre-trip vehicle inspection, and conducting a pre-work tree risk assessment. The conversation focused on how following a systematic process while performing a pre-work tree risk assessment reduces the likelihood of missing critical points of concern. This follow-up article emphasizes the importance of correctly identifying decay fungi, whenever possible, as part of the pre-work tree risk assessment.

Polyporus squamosus fruiting structures.

There are levels of priority in the inspection process, often based on likelihood and consequences. During a pre-trip vehicle inspection, for example, although we may check the tire pressure and the tread depth, we likely place a higher priority on checking the seatbelt, the steering linkage, and making sure the brakes are working. Now, the consequences of having a tire with low pressure or shallow tread depth are significant, but those consequences are likely lower in severity than the consequences of possessing a faulty seat belt, steering linkage, or brakes.

A systematic tree risk assessment is very similar. In an assessment, one inspects the whole tree, but the likelihood and/or consequences of failure for a trunk with a significant defect may be higher than the likelihood/consequences of a wrist-sized limb with a similar defect in the outer canopy. For this reason, after observing the tree from a distance for obvious points of concern, it is good to inspect the tree parts that could contribute to whole-tree failure and severe consequences, if they should fail.

One of the biggest concerns regarding root health (and associated tree stability) is decay. You can use a blunt-tip probe while inspecting the trunk flare to check for symptoms, such as soft, decayed roots just below the soil surface. You can start by inspecting the area around the trunk. This will give you an idea of how sound the roots are and help you determine if they are buried under backfill.

You should also look for signs of decay fungi, but be aware that the visible signs of some important decay fungi are not present yearlong. The most common indicators of fungi are fruiting structures, commonly referred to as mushrooms, conks, and brackets. Visible fruiting structures are typically only a small part of the whole fungal organism that is decaying the wood. A simple way to visualize this is to think about the flowers of a tree; the flowers are a reproductive structure, just as the conks, mushrooms, and brackets are the reproductive structures of fungi.

Identifying fungi from visible fruiting structures can be difficult. Some fungi, such as Ganoderma applanatum, have perennial fruiting structures that are visible throughout the year, even when the fungi is dormant. Many fungi, however, have fruiting structures that are present for only a short period before drying up and subsequently degrading. Fungal fruiting structures can be useful to positively identify fungi, but the chance of conducting your tree risk assessment when the fruiting structures are present and identifiable may be relatively low.

Being able to identify fungal fruiting structures is an important skill. And while most qualified arborists are good at identifying common species of trees in their area, there are fewer arborists who are able to identify the key decay fungi affecting those trees.

You can use a blunt-tip probe to check for symptoms of decay, such as soft, decayed roots just below the soil surface.

Arborists should be knowledgeable of how fungi decay wood. Some species are more aggressive than others and will degrade the structural integrity of the tree faster. If you are speaking with a client who says, “I’ve seen that same mushroom on that tree trunk for several years,” then your response will likely be different for a less-aggressive white rot species (e.g., Polyporus squamosus), than if the fruiting structure were an aggressive brown rot species (e.g., Laetiporus sulphureus). Brown rot and white rot fungi significantly change the characteristics of the wood in different ways. Doing your research and knowing the facts—knowing those characteristics—will help you better determine how to safely work on the tree.

Performing a pre-work risk assessment on every tree one works on is essential, regardless of whether that tree will being climbed, accessed from an aerial lift, or worked on from the ground. Follow a systematic process that you can easily repeat on every tree you assess. This will ensure your assessment becomes routine, and will reduce the likelihood of missing a step or an important piece of information about the structural integrity of the tree. Learning more about wood decay fungi identification, and about how decay fungi affects the trees on which you work, are similarly essential components of guaranteeing a safe worksite.

Next Steps: Guide your crew in performing a pre-work tree risk assessment. Start with the roots and the trunk, then move up the tree to the main limbs in the inner canopy, and then on to the smaller branches in the outer canopy. Take particular care when looking at the root system. Bring a blunt-tip probe and encourage your crew to practice checking for soft or decayed roots.

Don Roppolo is a manager of Arboricultural Training with The Davey Tree Expert Company. He is an ISA Certified Arborist (#IL-1393ATL).


October Volunteer Spotlight: Dr. Arnold ...

Arnold Brodbeck, PhD, TrusteeTREE Fund is happy to shine the spotlight this month on Beau Brodbeck, PhD. Beau started his involvement with TREE Fund as the Liaison for Southern Chapter ISA and quickly stepped up to chair the Liaison Committee and join the Board of Trustees. TREE Fund webinars were Beau’s brainchild; he introduced us to the Extension community and helped establish and grow the program. In addition to all that, Beau still finds time to participate in our Research and Education Committee that reviews grant applications, and to ride the Tour. We are grateful for all you do, Beau!


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

October 2017 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly TREE Fund Bulletin.

Pre-work Tree Risk Assessment...

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of ARBORIST NEWS, a publication of International Society of Arboriculture ( This content is reprinted with full permission of the publisher.


Keep your eyes open! If we are aware of problems with our equipment before we get on the road, then we can better our chances of properly addressing those problems.

Risk is present in just about everything we do—even something as basic as driving a truck (depending on how you go about it). How we approach the task of driving greatly affects the amount of risk we expose ourselves to. In other words, what we do before we turn the key in the ignition can increase or decrease our exposure to risk and impact our likelihood of having an incident.

As professionals, we know that being systematic and thorough with pre-trip vehicle inspections reduces our chance of missing something. If we are aware of problems with our equipment before we get on the road, then we can better our chances of properly addressing those problems.

Just as we need to conduct a thorough and systematic pre-trip inspection before we hop in the truck, we also need to do a thorough and systematic pre-work tree and site assessment to reduce our exposure to risk on the work site. If done the same way each time, your pre-work and site assessment can become a habit—a good habit. Never underestimate the value of a habitual process that reduces the likelihood of forgetting or missing something.

Evaluating the tree twice adds another level of safety before someone works on the tree. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. But hard work and patience can reduce those mistakes: assess the tree first to create an estimate or to develop a work order, then assess it again when the crew goes out to do the actual work.

The tree risk assessment we do before we send out a crew can set them up for success or failure, from a safety standpoint as well as an expense standpoint. Have you ever been involved in a job in which the initial assessment was more of a drive-by look, from one perspective, which you later found out had missed a significant concern? Hypothetically speaking, if a more thorough assessment was within the range of possibility, you might have considered enlisting different people with the appropriate skills and equipment (e.g., aerial lift, crane). The question then becomes, does the crew decide not to do the job and to come back another day with the appropriate equipment and personnel, or does the crew attempt to complete the job with what they have to avoid the additional, unplanned expenses?

Evaluating the tree twice adds another level of safety before someone works on the tree. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. But hard work and patience can reduce those mistakes.

A thorough tree risk assessment can help us avoid putting our crews in this very predicament. It is easy to not do a thorough tree assessment, thinking that the tree looks good from a distance and assuming the crew is going to look at it closer before they work on it. But the assessment needs to be the same, regardless of whether we are climbing the tree or planning to work using an aerial lift. For example, if a tree or tree part fails while we are using an aerial lift, there is a high risk of that part hitting the lift. We cannot operate under a false sense of security. We must not assume we do not need to conduct a thorough risk assessment because we are not tied to the tree.

Returning to our truck analogy—as one approaches a truck to do a pre-trip inspection, one looks for major signs of concern (e.g., oil on the ground, flat tires). We should approach trees and the sites we work on with the same big-picture observation, looking for and identifying obvious signs of concern. On a work site, we should be looking for power lines, signs of recent site disturbance (e.g., new sidewalks, curbs, or driveways), changes in grade, or vehicle traffic.

Following an overview of the work site, we should look for major signs of concern as we approach the tree(s) we plan to work on. Things that are easier to spot on approach include tip dieback, sparse canopy foliage, or excessive sprouts along major branches. Be aware that this may indicate root problems and consequently a loss of structural stability. Know the signs of poor or weak branch attachment, like codominant stems or narrowly angled branch unions. Develop a keen eye for dead or broken limbs, large cavities or cankers, or the absence of a visible trunk flare at the ground line. If there is no trunk flare, then there is a good chance the site has seen a change in grade, potentially causing damage to the root system and a loss of structural integrity.

In the case of a thorough, pre-trip assessment of a work truck, a close-up inspection of all the critical parts of the vehicle will be necessary—lifting the hood to check the engine, checking brakes, taking a look at the suspension. The same goes for us arborists as we get closer to the tree we plan to work on—the closer we get, the more critical we should be of the tree’s canopy, branches, and trunk. Having a pair of binoculars handy is very useful to get a better view of things that are difficult to see from the ground. On this closer inspection, we are typically able to identify smaller or less obvious defects that we could not see from a distance. Things like cracks, loose bark, or fungal fruiting bodies let us know there is dead tissue, and we should explore further to see how extensive the dieback and decay really is. Looking down at the base of the trunk, we can search for girdling roots, or heaving soil or root plates, among other concerns. We should use a mallet to sound every tree we work on to help identify cavities.

A process like the ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ) is one method for helping arborists keep to the same, thorough process to reduce the likelihood of missing something. Some professionals prefer to customize their own process (or forms) to better fit their personnel and work requirements. Some document their assessment with a pen and paper, while others prefer to do everything electronically. Still others carry out the assessment but choose only to document significant concerns. Regardless of the method, the key is to follow a thorough, systematic process that is the same with each use. It may take some time and purposeful action to make your chosen process part of your routine. Be patient and persistent!


Don Roppolo is a manager of Arboricultural Training with The Davey Tree Expert Company. He is an ISA Certified Arborist (#IL-1393ATL).

Melissa LeVangie: Millard F. Blair Excep...

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of ARBORIST NEWS, a publication of International Society of Arboriculture ( This content is reprinted with full permission of the publisher.


Melissa LeVangie’s devotion to arboriculture now spans two decades; her work as a climber and consultant, as well as her role as an influential instructor and friend, lives and breathes a passion for trees.

Last year, she was awarded the Millard F. Blair Exceptional Contribution to Practical Arboriculture Award for her discernment, and for her boundless capacity to encourage others to become better listeners and better learners if they wish to become better arborists. LeVangie is a strong believer in maintaining a community of friends who are enthusiastic, empowered, and ready to make a difference. She is warmly acknowledged by her peers for her role as a co-founder and driving force behind the Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop.

Unfailingly, LeVangie is solid. Lauded for her energy and her confidence, and respected for her emotion and her diligence, LeVangie has a passion for safe and effective tree care practices that hits you at your core. She has worked as a practicing arborist for many years, providing consulting-arborist services throughout central Massachusetts, U.S., while also currently working as the director of marketing and sales for Shelter Tree, Inc., a Massachusetts-based gear-supply company.

She is deeply connected to the ISA New England Chapter and the Massachusetts Tree Wardens and Foresters Association, among other local and regional efforts. As the tree warden for Petersham, Massachusetts, U.S., she doubled the town budget for tree care in two short years and did wonders for raising the profile and importance of arboriculture among municipal leaders and landowners alike.

LeVangie’s knowledge is something to behold. She has been instrumental in building and sustaining a national network of women who work in and around trees. The Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop, since its initial launch in 2009, is proof positive of the value and impact of smart, dedicated, and personalized instruction. The workshop’s ongoing success, by extension, is further evidence of LeVangie’s knack for inspiring others.

The Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop brings together women of multiple levels of climbing experience (no-skill to high-skill), from across the country, to engage, to network, and to breathe in the wonders of tree climbing.

From setting up climbing lines using throwlines and friction saving devices, to securing various knots to facilitate different climbing systems, to understanding how to move safely and comfortably throughout the canopy using a lanyard . . . The workshop is a two-to-three–day learning exchange, crafted to maximize the strengths and intelligence of each attendee, providing women with the opportunity to climb in a safe, supportive, and informative environment.

The workshop allows an individual’s hard work to speak for itself, but as many past participants eagerly note, the event’s success hinges greatly on integrating a celebration of community, professional education, and personal responsibility.

LeVangie has inspired numerous women to excel in arboriculture as professionals. The Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop has instilled in many a renewed excitement for their career or individual goals—facets of personal development that go much deeper than the average reservoir reserved for technical competency or gear familiarity. Tree care is a complex industry, and opportunities for women of all abilities to network and grow their careers are sparse. LeVangie knows that any opportunity to hold open the door for individuals whom are new to arboriculture is absolutely essential.



Saluting Branches Continues to Grow and ...

by Brandon Gallagher Watson

Saluting Branches began as a national service project conceived by TCIA Member, Rainbow Treecare, in 2013 with the first event taking place in 2015. Working in partnership with the US Department of Veteran Affairs National Cemetery Administration (VA), the inaugural event was held at 27 local and national cemeteries. At the time, the VA thought the project sounded great but suggested it begin with no more than 5 – 10 sites as pulling off a successful event at two dozen locations was a big task for a volunteer organization. They were amazed when over 1,000 arborists showed up that first year and established Saluting Branches as one of the most successful charitable service days that benefits the VA every year. From those original 27 sites, the project has grown to include 45 veteran memorial cemeteries across 38 States in just its third year.

The Third Annual Saluting Branches: Arborists United for Veteran Remembrance is set to take place on September 20th, 2017 and, with an estimated 2,000 volunteers, it will be one of the largest service events in our industry’s history. “As an arborist it is an honor to participate in this collaborative event. To give one day to honor those who gave their life so that we can enjoy a rewarding career is the least that any of us can do. As we increase our knowledge of what trees actually do for us as humans the role of the arborist becomes increasingly important, but never more important than the role those who defended our freedom. After all with out their sacrifice, none of what we do would be the same.” This quote comes from Joe Shaw, an arborist with The Davey Tree Expert Co. but it could have come from any of the thousands of volunteers who have taken part in this meaningful event.

While the project started with the intention of providing professional arborist services at national cemeteries, the scope of the project has expanded to “honor American service men and women by organizing volunteer tree and landscape care for the land and property dedicated to our veterans.” This larger vision allows for volunteers with landscaping and turf science backgrounds. It also allows for growth into other memorial sites such as veteran monuments, state veteran cemeteries, or and even sites dedicated to US Military personnel beyond the borders of the United States. In 2016, Saluting Branches had its first day of service at the Mexico City National Cemetery, a site established in 1851 to inter the remains of US soldiers lost during the Mexican-American War.

The growth of the project is the result of individual arborists stepping up to take on a veteran site nearby and meaningful to them. New sites for 2017, including cemeteries in Utah, Montana, Michigan, Arkansas, and south Florida, have all been added because an arborist contacted Saluting Branches through the website or Facebook and requested more information on how to get this started in their community. Many of those who reach out end up becoming Site Leader. Site Leaders play a pivotal role in making the day of service a success for our industry. They coordinate and manage the work, equipment and people at a designated cemetery. Saluting Branches would truly not be possible without these folks taking a leadership role in make this happen on the ground.

Saluting Branches, as a non-profit association, continues to grow as well. While it started as a community service project within Rainbow Treecare, Saluting Branches is now established as its own 501(c)(3) charitable organization. This allows for financial support from sponsors and partners to be tax-deductible donations and sets the groundwork for the future expansion the project into its own self-sustaining charity. Within this, a Board of Directors has been established and was proud to welcome Paul Sellers, a system forester with NSTAR Energy. Paul is the first non-Rainbow Treecare Board member and will help guide the organization over his two-year term.

Sponsorships, both from individuals and companies, are integral to the support of the project. With 45 veteran properties eager to participate, support from industry leaders including Rainbow Treecare, ACRT, Inc., The Davey Tree Expert Company, STIHL®, and Petzl®, make it possible to expand the experience and grow the reach. The financial contributions cover meals for the thousands of volunteers, helping with administration and marketing costs, and allowing for volunteer appreciation gifts. Additional sponsor partners include Arborwear, Teufelberger, SavaTree, Guardair, AirSpade Division, Jarraff Industries, RDO, Banditt, Anderberg Printing, ArborMAX, At Height, Teupen Lifts, Tree Stuff, TCIA, ISA, and UAA.

While it is easy to get caught up in the planning, organizing, and logistics of the event, no Saluting Branches volunteer ever losses sight of why we are here and the contribution this Day of Service provides. “Our ability to contribute to the upkeep and beauty of these sites is a small token of appreciation for which I am deeply touched and honored to be a part of,” says Matt Bartelme from TCIA member company, Barts Tree Service. “The 2015 inaugural event was a great opportunity for our organization to give back to our fallen heroes and help to show them the respect that they deserve. Our company is honored to be of service again this year and and we look forward to another fantastic event,” reflected Daniel Reposh from Homer Tree in Illinois. Ask anyone who has participated in Saluting Branches and you’ll find arborists who are dedicated using their skills to make these sacred sites safer and more beautiful for all who visit.

For more information on Saluting Branches and to find a site near you, please visit

Leading Thoughts...

by J. Eric Smith, TREE Fund President and CEO

My 5:30 a.m. walks across the Chicago Loop to Union Station have been getting increasingly brisk and dark of late, even as the first hints of color are appearing among the leaves around TREE Fund’s office in Naperville, Illinois. As it often does, the imminent arrival of autumn gets me to thinking about change, and what it will bring, and how it will be managed. I suspect I am not alone in that seasonal reflection.

It occurs to me that those of us who work in the tree care and related green industries are, at bottom line, managing the process of change. Sometimes that change is slow and predictable: we work with developers and landscape architects to create new green spaces according to plans, we help homeowners and businesses manage their growing and aging green stock, and we formulate the inevitable end of life plans that come when over-mature trees begin to fail, creating safety risks.

Sometimes, of course, change comes at us more quickly and profoundly than we would like, as our colleagues responding to hurricane and wildfire damage this month all too clearly understand. Beneath all of those slow and fast changes, though, one thing needs to remain constant: a shared commitment to rigorous, scientific research as the cornerstone upon which we build our plans, actions, and responses, to safely ensure and protect life, property and the environment.

TREE Fund is changing too. We are rolling out new grant lines on an almost annual basis, shifting emphasis toward endowment building in lieu of event-based fundraising, and embracing “friendraising” and community engagement as fundamental components of our mission, so that we may open the circle to new philanthropic partners. And the constant cornerstone that makes all of that possible, of course, is the faithful support of so many individuals and organizations who believe in and empower our efforts.

TREE Fund celebrated its 15th anniversary of working on your behalf in July 2017. Between now and December, we will be rolling out a 15th Anniversary Operating Appeal, and I am hopeful that you will continue to empower us as positive change agents by supporting it. It is your belief in our work that makes it so rewarding, and upon which our commitment to your safety and success remains – and that is one thing that will never change.

September 2017 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly TREE Fund Bulletin.

Asplundh Tree Expert Co. Elects Scott M....


Willow Grove, PA –The board of the Asplundh Tree Expert Co., the nation’s largest utility vegetation management company, has elected Scott M. Asplundh to the position of chairman of the board and chief executive officer (CEO). With 37 years of experience in field operations and corporate management, he represents the highest level of leadership within the third generation family members who now manage this international corporation based in the Philadelphia area.

Although Scott Asplundh has already served as the CEO for seven years, the board chose to add the responsibilities of board chairman since the health of former Chairman Christopher B. Asplundh, Sr. was declining in July. He passed away peacefully at his home in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania on August 10, 2017 at the age of 77.
In the months before his passing, Chris Asplundh, Sr. expressed his confidence in the leadership experience that Scott has attained through his many years of meeting challenges and building successes for the company. Founded in 1928 by three brothers, the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. is a family-owned and managed corporation that primarily performs utility vegetation management, but also provides a variety of services for utility infrastructure. The corporation and its subsidiaries employ over 35,000 men and women throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr. Asplundh joined the company full-time in 1980 after earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Lawrence University in New York. He went on to earn an MBA from Pennsylvania State University in 1982. Although he had worked part-time since 1976 on various tree crews as a college student, Mr. Asplundh spent the next several years gaining more field experience with assignments in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Illinois. In late 1987, after two years as a field manager of Asplundh operations in Missouri and eastern Kansas, he was elected vice president and returned to the corporate headquarters in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.

As the company expanded and diversified in the 1990s, Mr. Asplundh took on oversight responsibility for several field management regions in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, as well as subsidiary operations in utility construction and underground locating. In January 2001, he was elected president of the company and in September 2010, the board of directors elected him CEO.

Mr. Asplundh is a member of various industry organizations including the International Society of Arboriculture, the Utility Arborist Association and the Tree Care Industry Association and is an active participant in Edison Electric Institute conferences. He currently serves as the chairman of the Electrical Transmission and Distribution Strategic Partnership in conjunction with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which focuses on reducing fatalities and injuries for employees who work near or on power lines. He is a leader in implementing telematics for the corporation’s equipment fleet and in 2013, he earned Penn State University’s Smeal Graduate Distinguished Achievement Award.

Residing in Meadowbrook, Pennsylvania, Mr. Asplundh and his wife of 37 years, Hali, are the parents of two adult children, Madeleine and Jared.
# # #

Ohio University Seeking Graduate Student...

One of our TREE Fund researchers asked us to pass this along:


We are looking for a capable student to join our Forest Ecology research group at the Masters or PhD level beginning in January 2018.  Our research broadly considers the structure and dynamics of forest communities in human-shaped ecosystems.  The incoming student will participate in a study examining the role of street and roadside trees in shaping the urban microclimate and the long-term effects of trees on pavement condition.  In addition to research commitments, the student will take courses and occasionally serve as teaching assistant in the Department of Environmental and Plant Biology.  The position is fully funded including tuition waivers.

Applicants should have a GPA of at least 3.4 and GRE scores above the 65th percentile.  A strong work ethic, quantitative skills, and the ability work independently are essential.  Applicants should be physically fit and capable of field work in less-than-ideal conditions.  Previous field experience is desirable.

The Department of Environmental and Plant Biology ( ) is a community of mutually supportive faculty and students at Ohio University.  The University is situated in the small city of Athens, nestled in the forested hills of the Allegheny Plateau.  Application procedures are described at

If you are interested please contact Glenn Matlack at  See his web page at .

August 2017 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly TREE Fund Bulletin.

Christopher B. Asplundh, Sr. 1939 -2017...

NEWS RELEASE          

Date:   August 14, 2017

Christopher B. Asplundh, Sr. 1939-2017

Willow Grove, PA — Christopher Brooke Asplundh, Sr., chairman of the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. board of directors, passed away peacefully in his Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania home on August 10, 2017 at the age of 77 after a long battle with cancer. The family-owned and managed company, based in Willow Grove, employs over 35,000 people in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In addition to being a leading vegetation management contractor, the corporation also provides utility infrastructure, commercial landscaping and snow removal services.

“The energy and leadership that Chris put into this company was tremendous.  The way he shared his knowledge and experience was always appreciated and will be greatly missed,” said CEO Scott M. Asplundh.

Born on August 26, 1939 just north of Philadelphia in Bryn Athyn, Mr. Asplundh was the son of the late Carl Hjalmar Asplundh, one of the three brothers who founded the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. in 1928. He attended the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn and then started working for the company on various tree crews in 1957. Mr. Asplundh continued part-time tree work while attending college. In 1962, he graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and then served in the U.S. Marine Corps.  Mr. Asplundh began his career with the company in 1963, overseeing line clearance operations in Illinois, New Jersey and the New England states.  In 1968, he was elected vice president and moved back to work in the company’s headquarters in Jenkintown (now located in nearby Willow Grove).

Over the next two decades his executive responsibilities continued to grow and before his election to company president in 1992, he was overseeing the operations of 12 field divisions throughout the U.S., as well as the corporation’s Safety Department. Mr. Asplundh was named chief executive officer (CEO) and chairman of the board in 2001. Nine years later, he retained his chairman position when Scott M. Asplundh was elected CEO. 

A 54-year company veteran who led the organization through exponential growth and major industry and economic changes, Mr. Asplundh was also a champion of the “Reimagine Cancer Care” capital campaign of the Abington Health Foundation to help build the Asplundh Cancer Pavilion just around the corner from the company’s headquarters in Willow Grove. He served on various charitable and non-profit boards, and was an avid sportsman and outdoorsman who was passionate about wildlife and its preservation.

Mr. Asplundh is survived by his wife of 50 years, Ellen; son Executive Vice President Chris Asplundh, Jr.; daughter Meredith and her husband, Timothy Gardner; grandchildren Alexander and Paige Gardner; brothers Carl, Jr. and Edward who also served the company in executive leadership roles; sister Emily Jane Lemole; as well as extended Asplundh family members in the company and around the world. 

# # #

July 2017 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly TREE Fund Bulletin.

June 2017 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly TREE Fund Bulletin.

May 2017 news from TREE Fund...

Read the latest edition of our monthly TREE Fund Bulletin.

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.

close window