The grant will fund including the creation of a digital inventory of trees on UNE’s Biddeford and Portland campuses. Courtesy photo

BIDDEFORD — The University of New England School of Marine and Environmental Programs has received a substantial grant from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry’s Maine Forest Service for its urban forestry enterprises, including the creation of a digital inventory of trees on both its Biddeford and Portland campuses.

The $23,000 Project Canopy Assistance Grant, a combination of state and matching funds, will go toward the design, creation, and implementation of a digital campus and street tree inventory based on geographic information systems (GIS) technology, according to a UNE press release. The project’s goals are to collect the tree data necessary for UNE to develop a comprehensive sustainability and management arboricultural plan for its two campuses.

Project Canopy Assistance Grants are available to state, county, and municipal governments, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations for developing and implementing community forestry projects and programs.

UNE’s project will be completed in two phases, the first of which will include designing and building out the GIS platform for the inventory and using aerial photographs and other sources to locate campus and street trees and build an initial data set that can be verified and supplemented in the field. The second phase will include conducting inventory in the field as well as collecting data on each of the trees inventoried. Funding from the grant will support training for two student interns on tree identification and proper methods of data collection.

“Conducting a state-of-the-art digital tree inventory is considered essential for any university, city, or other organization committed to urban greening,” said Michael Duddy, J.D., M.P.P.M., adjunct assistant teaching professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and School of Marine and Environmental Programs. “The Project Canopy grant will allow UNE to significantly build on its ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship.”

The grant award supports the University’s broader goals of using the inventory as an important teaching asset. This summer, UNE will hold its first course in urban forestry, which involves the care and management of tree populations in urban settings. Such an inventory will benefit future courses and students across disciplines and from other classes.

“Urban forestry lies at the heart of the global urban greening movement,” Duddy explained. “The new course offering, the ability to hire and train urban forestry interns, and the tree inventory itself will all help provide UNE students with globally important skills and education.”

The project will be overseen by Duddy and three additional UNE faculty members: Marcia Moreno-Báez, Ph.D., visiting assistant teaching professor in the School of Marine and Environmental Programs; Pam Morgan, Ph.D., professor of environmental studies; and Thomas Klak, Ph.D., professor of environmental studies, who added that the project serves a deeper cultural purpose.

“This tree identification and inventory project is an antidote for our culturally pervasive ‘plant blindness,’” said Klak, who for years has been on a mission to restore the American chestnut tree. “We all see hundreds of trees every day, but many of us do not know their names. We inhabit the country’s eastern forest ecosystem, and, in order to live harmoniously and healthfully within it, we need to recognize and understand it. This project helps in that regard.”

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