Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund (TREE Fund) and Utility Arborist Association (UAA) established the Utility Arborist Research Fund (UARF) in 2010 to finance work with real importance and benefit to utility tree care professionals. In 2017, the UARF endowment reached its $1.0 million activation goal, and the first grant under this program was awarded in 2018. TREE Fund manages the UARF endowment and administers all research grants awarded, while UAA’s Research Committee advises TREE Fund with respect to research priorities. Given the immense scope of annual utility arboriculture work on a global basis, if UARF-funded research can generate even a 1.0% reduction in tree-related outages, customer complaints, vegetation management complexity or emergency tree work, the financial, public relations, and worker safety returns on investment will be immense.
2023 FUNDING LEVELS AND PRIORITIES
A total of $50,000 is available for award in 2023; the minimum award considered will be $10,000, the maximum $50,000, so that one to five grants may be awarded, subject to receipt of compliant applications. Work funded by UARF is expected to be completed within one to three years of award.
For 2023, TREE Fund and UAA are seeking UARF proposals guided by the prioritized summary of research topics polled from our wider membership, prioritized as follows, with equal consideration given to these topics:
- Employee, Contractor and Public Safety (including training relevance and quality, and training frequency);
- Service Reliability (including tree failure and tree worker experience); and
- Regulatory Compliance (including training and process improvement).
While TREE Fund and UAA encourage applications that are aligned with these priorities, both organizations also understand that social, exploratory and other research questions may arise. TREE Fund and UAA are thus open to evaluating any proposal related to vegetation management in the utility industry. UARF may not be used to fund to following types of research:
- Grants to individuals;
- Projects that are primarily municipal tree surveys or assessments;
- Tree planting programs;
- Studies of individual tree species for the primary purpose of agricultural or timber/forest planting yield;
- Commercial tree- or soil-related product testing primarily for the benefit of the company that manufactures the product.
TREE Fund will accept completed applications only between January 15 and March 15, 2023. To apply, send an email containing a brief Letter of Inquiry (LOI) of no more than 100 words describing your project title and concept to firstname.lastname@example.org before March 1, 2023, ideally linking your concept to one of the defined 2023 priority areas. Your LOI must clearly identify the Principal Investigator and Institution who will be contracted for the work should your application be approved. Also note in your LOI that you wish to apply for the Utility Arborist Research Fund Grant program.
TREE Fund will evaluate whether your LOI concept meets all of our application criteria and is deemed to have a reasonable possibility of success given the year’s research priorities. If and only if your LOI is approved, TREE Fund will send you a numbered application form for your use. You may not apply without such a numbered application form, and the number of applications so provided each grant making cycle may be limited. TREE Fund determinations on whether an LOI meets the application criteria are final and not negotiable.
Upon completion of this application form, you will save a Word version for your records, then create a PDF version of the completed document with title in the format “PI Surname, Grant Program, Application Number” (e.g. “Smith, UARF, #20-023”), and email it as an attachment to email@example.com with a PDF of PI and Co-PI (if applicable) CVs. Staff will confirm receipt of your application at that time.
In addition to contact and CV information for the PI, Co-PI(s), and any student assistants, applicants will need the following information to complete the form. Note well that word count limits are firm and absolute. Exceeding word counts may result in your application being rejected before review. Applicants should compose their text in Word or related systems that allow counts to be confirmed before they are placed in the application form.
- Overall Project Summary, Including Overarching Goals (400 Words Maximum): A brief statement of the current issue/problem and its impact on arboriculture, urban forestry, and the professions that are involved with researching, planning, designing, growing, planting, managing and/or otherwise maintaining urban trees; and goals of the proposed research.
- Description of Measurable Outputs/Outcomes (250 Words Maximum): Include a list of the tangible outputs (publications, extension/outreach materials, posters, etc.) from this project and identify up to five measurable outcomes (real changes in day-to-day urban forest design or management) that are expected to result from work proposed.
- Current Knowledge/Past Research in Project Area (1,000 Words Maximum, excluding in-text literature citations as described at the end of this section): Description of what is known about the problem/project area and with reference to previous attempts to address it where appropriate; a review of literature and past experiences of the investigative team.
- Project Work Plan (1,500 Words Maximum): Clearly define the scope of the work to be performed, including hypotheses, design, methodology and analyses. Any anticipated proprietary elements of proposed research must be identified clearly in the initial application. Should applications fail to make such declarations, TREE Fund reserves the right to negotiate royalties from patents, sales, copyrights, or other commercial results of funded research.
- Dissemination Plans (300 Words Maximum): A brief description of activities and outlets used to share the results of this project. Be sure communications with both academic and practitioner communities are addressed. It is TREE Fund’s explicit desire that research findings eventually be freely and widely available to any and all parties who may benefit from the author’s work. At the same time, TREE Fund recognizes the importance of academic and professional journal publications and will work with recipients to ensure that findings are disseminated in a manner that is cognizant of all parties’ schedules and needs.
- Literature Cited: It may be useful to refer reviewers to previous work published elsewhere. In such cases, cite appropriate works in your text in “Author(s), year” format (e.g. “Smith, 2014” or “Jones et.al., 2003”) and then list those citations alphabetically by first author’s last name as indicated in the following link from the American Phytopathological Society: https://apsjournals.apsnet.org/page/authorinformation#litcited
Budget Elements, Including:
- Institutional Compensation, Stipends and Benefits
- Travel and Transportation
- Equipment (e.g. Vehicles, Growth Chambers, Etc.)
- Other Materials and Supplies (e.g. Paper, Ink, Etc.)
- Contract Labor (Consultants, Speakers, Etc.)
- Institutional Overhead (Maximum 10%)
- Cash or In-Kind Funding from Other Sources (Minimum 10%; unrecovered institutional overhead may be applied to meet this minimum)
CRITERIA FOR SELECTION
Staff will screen all applications for applicant eligibility, adherence to submission directions (including word counts), alignment with the TREE Fund mission, and compliance with minimum requirements. Proposals meeting these criteria are then forwarded to the TREE Fund’s Research and Education Committee for a more thorough and competitive evaluation. Prospective applicants can be sure that reviewers will place highest emphasis on:
- Prior record of accomplishment by the investigative team. (Scientists early in their research careers may wish to include others with more research experience as active co-investigators or advisors)
- Potential contribution of the project to the arboricultural industry.
- Approach, including statement of hypotheses and experimental design
- Dissemination plan to the scientific community and to tree care professionals
TREE Fund does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, disability or national or ethnic origin. Current trustees of TREE Fund or any member of the family of any such trustee are ineligible to receive grants from TREE Fund.
AWARD PROCESS AND FUNDS DISTRIBUTION
Recommendations on grant awards will be presented by the Research Committee to the TREE Fund Board of Trustees for approval in May 2023, and grant recipient(s) will be notified in writing within one month of Trustee approval. A Grant Agreement form that includes a payment and reporting schedule will be provided with award notification. It must be completed within one month of notification, and returned to TREE Fund with all required supporting documentation.
Applicants are most strongly encouraged to review the sample Grant Agreement form (which can be viewed here) with their employers’ financial or grant management offices prior to submitting an application, to ensure that the Agreement forms can be signed expeditiously upon receipt. Potential difficulties with Agreement terms that are identified during the application process may be considered and negotiated more favorably than those presented after the grant award process.
RIGHTS AND PERMISSIONS
Before submitting a proposal, applicants must contact cooperating partners, including but not limited to (as applicable) State natural resource agency personnel, utility companies, federal biologists and resource managers, and relevant local landowners, to discuss the proposed project and ensure that the work can be conducted if funded (e.g., utility rights-of-way may be accessed, necessary samples can be collected, required permits can be obtained, staff safety training can be conducted and certified as required by the utility, etc.) Affirmation of support of partners must be provided with the application. All necessary state, federal, and local permits, as well as landowner permission, must be received and documented prior to project initiation.
It is TREE Fund’s explicit desire that research findings eventually be freely and widely available to any and all parties who may benefit from the author’s work. At the same time, TREE Fund recognizes the importance of academic and professional journal publications and will work with grant recipients to ensure that findings are disseminated in a manner that is cognizant of all parties’ schedules and needs. Recipients should inform TREE Fund when funded research findings are published or presented at conferences so that these accomplishments can be widely publicized. Recipients should also recognize the support provided by TREE Fund in their articles or presentations related to the funded project. Recipients are strongly encouraged to publish findings to relevant professional journals, i.e. Arboriculture and Urban Forestry, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, Arboricultural Journal, Trees: Structure and Function, Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology, Plant Pathology, Hortscience, Horticultural Science, Sustainable Development, Landscape and Urban Planning, Journal of Urban Health, Environment and Urbanization, Urban Ecosystems, etc.