Spotlight: 2017 UK Graduate, Grace Coy

Leading Workshops to Preserve the Forest Growing in Our Own Backyards.

by Alicia Landon


“Here’s a good example of what insect damage looks like.” Our group leader, Grace, points to some loose bark flaking off the trunk of the tree about two feet off of the ground.

 “Are there insects in there that you can see?” One of the onlookers asks drawing nearer to get a closer look.

There aren’t any visible insects but Dave tells us the galleys are characteristic of those left by the flat headed apple tree borer. The group takes notes and some pictures before Grace continues to lead us on our tour, pointing out some problems unique to urban trees.  She discusses the root system of a huge oak constricted by the nearby sidewalk and guides thoughtful conversation on strategies to keep new and existing trees from interfering with power lines.

Our guide is 2017 UK Graduate, Grace Coy, who completed her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in Natural Resources and Environmental Science. During her academic career at UK she was selected for a Native Ecosystems Internship at the University of Kentucky Arboretum in 2015 and was the recipient of a Summer Research & Creativity Fellowship grant in 2016 where she developed the pilot program for the workshops she is doing now. She also worked as a student assistant for the NRES program under Dr. Mary Arthur and Academic Coordinator, Geri Philpott, where she produced a biannual newsletter and spoke publically with prospective students interested in the program. The assistantship also gained her notice with the NRES Steering Committee who asked for her input to help shape the future direction of the program. Grace aspires to be certified as an arborist over the next growing season and to pursue graduate studies in the fall of 2018. 

Grace grew up near Louisville and attended Spencer County high school. While she enjoys hiking and appreciates any activity that will bring her outdoors, Grace traces her interest in the environment back to her first reading of the short story “An Entrance to the Woods,” where author Wendell Berry writes of the deep-rooted human connection to the environment, in which preservation of the environment equates to certain preservation of self.  Like Berry, Grace is interested in the relationship between people and the environment.

As Berry’s philosophy of environmentalism is rooted in the truth that people benefit broadly and profoundly by the natural world, Grace invites the community to regard the urban forest around them, explaining, “I firmly believe that nature is everywhere, even in spaces that may not initially fit into the typical mold.”

The workshop she leads is a project provided under TFISE’s Urban Forest Initiative (UFI) to promote public interest in urban canopy health in central Kentucky communities. The benefits of urban trees are numerous and include higher property values- particularly in neighborhoods, cooler sidewalks and road ways, reduced storm water run-off, and improved human health and emotional well-being. The workshops are intended to provide community members with information about these various benefits and about how to maintain the health of trees to the advantage of themselves and their neighborhoods. 

Grace explains, “We hope that by participating, members of the public will become motivated to become ambassadors for urban trees in their area, thus increasing UFI’s network of support for our mission.”

When I ask workshop participant Cindy Rullman about her experience she said she was sold long ago on the benefits of community trees, however “…the benefit (of the workshop) was to learn about some of the potential problems so I can keep my trees healthy.”

The workshops last two hours including a lecture and an opportunity for participants to practice the assessment skills they have learned on trees in the area.  If you are interested in scheduling a workshop for your own neighborhood or community group email or click here to fill out a request form.




© 2013 Tracy Farmer Institute for Sustainability and the Environment