Michael Webb made a discovery last spring that helped Virginia Tech’s building maintenance and grounds unit take action and save as many as 30 threatened trees. Webb found several infestations of the invasive emerald ash borer, which has been chewing its way through North American ash trees. First discovered in the Great Lakes region in 2002, the pest has killed millions of trees and spread to more than 30 states and provinces.

Webb began working as a plant health care specialist for Bartlett Tree Experts in Roanoke even before completing his degree in May 2016. He found his first emerald ash borer infestation on a job in Roanoke, prompting him to inspect ash trees throughout the area. When he found infestations on trees near Norris Hall and Cheatham Hall on campus, he contacted his advisor, Associate Professor Eric Wiseman, for advice. Wiseman directed him to the university’s Insect Identification Lab to confirm the find and passed the information to Virginia Tech’s Facilities Department.

Despite Webb’s efforts and the university’s prompt response, 35 ash trees were already beyond help and had to be removed. Fortunately, the number and diversity of trees on campus means that Virginia Tech’s overall landscape is not significantly affected. Approximately 30 remaining ash trees were treated and will be closely monitored to ensure their long-term survival.

Read the full press release.