Virginia Tech will soon have an inventory of nearly 9,000 trees on campus, which will be used to monitor tree health and growth, and help university planners make decisions about development.

Associate Professor Eric Wiseman recruited Peter Stewart, a graduate student in urban forestry and an experienced arborist, to work in conjunction with the Facilities Department on the project. Stewart has inventoried almost 5,500 trees on campus since August. Each tree is identified, photographed, measured, and evaluated for health and structure, and the information is uploaded to a database.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the diversity of trees on campus,” said Stewart, who hails from Chattanooga, Tennessee. “Even having lived just a few hours south of here, there have been plenty of species in this region that I wasn’t familiar with.”

The data will tie directly into the Facilities Department’s work order system to allow for greater functionality. “Each tree will have a unique identification number, so whenever a tree needs work done, the grounds staff will be able to see exactly which ones need work and can keep track of it in that system,” said Landscape Architect Jack Rosenberg.

The inventory will also be used by the university to aid in decision-making about construction and landscaping on campus. “If our data are accurate, we can overlay our tree map on proposed designs early in the process to help with decisions like building location and orientation, and site plan features so we don’t remove valuable trees,” Rosenberger explained. “At some point, we hope to use analytical tools to reveal the dollar value of the trees on campus, the ecological systems benefits, and the health benefits of our trees.”

Stewart added, “Building this map will also be useful for getting a snapshot of the overall health and composition of the forest. It will help the university make good decisions about what species to plant, which trees to preserve, and what issues can be addressed through maintenance.”

Read the full press release.