Nic Williamson is a graduate student in UK’s Forestry Department and is leading the Adopt-a-Tree Program as part of the Urban Forest Initiative (UFI). UFI is a working group of UK faculty, staff, and students as well as community members whose mission is to advocate for and elevate the function, value, and perception of urban forests in the Bluegrass Region. The Adopt-a-Tree Program is one of the outreach projects that the UFI has launched to support this goal.
Why is this program important? Adopt-a-Tree allows individuals and groups to advocate for trees that enhance the quality of life around their home, school, or place of work. In addition to beautifying the landscape, trees play an important role in reducing stormwater runoff, improving air quality, reducing CO2 in the atmosphere, and conserving energy usage. If caught outside in the rain, where do you go? You will find the most shelter under the canopy of a tree, assuming it is not a thunderstorm! Rainwater interception by trees lowers the amount of rain that flows down the pavements and sidewalks of our city, filling our sewer systems. In addition to catching rain, trees also act like nets for pollutants from cars and construction that are suspended in the air around us.
How did you get involved? I majored in Natural Resources and Environmental Science at the University of Kentucky. My favorite classes were those that used the environment most accessible as the classroom. For UK, this was the college campus and city of Lexington. I grew up in this suburban area, so this environment is where I came to know nature. Now I realize that more and more, urban areas are where kids will come to see their first tree or hear their first birdsong. I love the outdoors as much as the next enthusiast, but often we don’t have to look far (and maybe shouldn’t) to begin to see how pieces of the ecological puzzle fit together.
How will this apply to your research? I have enjoyed sharing the Adopt-a-Tree program with people of all ages. One of my favorite parts is reading the narrative of why an individual or group chose “their” tree. This project has taught me that our relationship with trees and nature is shaped by many things, but there are also common threads. I would like to continue this research, to learn effective and impactful ways of incorporating environmental conservation into child and adult education.
How do people participate? To become a ‘treekeeper’, select a tree of your choice, preferably one you have a personal interest in, identify it, and estimate the benefits. All you need is a tape measure, calculator and camera. We have put together a packet that walks you through the steps and includes a link to the National Tree Benefits Calculator. All your data can then be uploaded and posted to our website. You can then monitor changes in your tree through sharing and comparing of photos and descriptions.
What do you hope to achieve through this initiative? Our goal for the Adopt-a-Tree program and other UFI projects is that they are useful communicating the importance of a healthy urban forest in the Bluegrass Region. Stakeholders in the urban forest come from diverse areas, from city planners to entomologists. Simply catering to those who are already stewards won’t be enough, however. Citizens and homeowners are very important. Trees in each backyard, block, neighborhood, and city park make up the urban forest in its entirety. Bringing awareness to this and to the benefits of city trees are the Urban Forest Initiative’s main objectives.
To find out more about the Adopt-a-Tree Program, contact:
UK, Department of Forestry