TREE Fund’s Spring 2018 Grant Season is Underway

Earlier this week, I posted about the 2018 fundraising season getting underway at TREE Fund when registration went live for the Tour des Trees. On the very same day, we also went live with an even more important facet of our business: grant-making season. It’s satisfying to see the means to the end (fundraising) and the end itself (grant-making) line up that way, and I’m very grateful to the staff here in Naperville for a lot of hard work required to get both pieces of our enterprise launched at the same time. Thank you, Karen, Monika and Barb!!!

We have three research programs, one community education program, and five scholarship programs accepting proposals and applications between now and March 15, 2018. Specifically, we are offering awards in the following areas during the current grant season; there may be multiple recipients for several of them:

RESEARCH:

  • Hyland R. Johns Grant Program: Established in 1995 to honor one of the leaders in the arboriculture industry and a founder of the ISA Research Trust, the Hyland R. Johns Grant Program funds longer-term research and technology transfer projects that have the potential of benefiting the everyday work of arborists. Projects are expected to be completed within three to five years, with a maximum award value of $50,000.
  • Utility Arborist Research Fund (UARF) Grants: In 2017, TREE Fund and the Utility Arborist Association completed a $1.0 million campaign for the UARF, and first grants will be awarded in 2018. Given the immense scope of annual utility arboriculture work on a global basis, if UARF-funded research can generate even a 1.0% reduction in tree-related outages, customer complaints, vegetation management complexity or emergency tree work, the financial, community relations, and worker safety returns on investment will be immense. Projects are expected to be completed within one to years, with a maximum award value of $50,000.
  • Safe Arborist Techniques Fund (SATF) Grants: SATF is a joint program of TREE Fund and the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), established in 2015 to support research, development and technology transfer on the techniques and equipment that arborists use in climbing, rigging, and working on trees, as well as the means of identifying potential hazards. Safety is a major concern to practicing arborists, especially as incomplete knowledge of potential hazards can be a life-or-death issue for both tree workers and the public they serve. Projects are expected to be completed within two years, with a maximum award value of $10,000.

SCHOLARSHIPS:

  • Robert Felix Memorial Scholarships ($5,000): National program for current college students pursuing a career in commercial arboriculture, entering the second year of a two-year program or entering the third or fourth year of a four-year program at an accredited undergraduate institution.
  • Bonnie Appleton Memorial Scholarships ($5,000): National program for current college students pursuing a career in urban forestry, arboriculture, horticulture, or nursery management, enrolled as a junior or senior throughout the scholarship award year at an accredited undergraduate institution in the United States or entering the second year of a two-year program.
  • Horace M. Thayer Scholarships ($3,000): Program for residents of Pennsylvania or Delaware (may be attending school elsewhere) who are returning to the second year of a two- or four-year program at an accredited college or university and be currently enrolled in a major, minor, option, or program of arboriculture, horticulture, forestry, or urban forestry.
  • Fran Ward Women in Arboriculture Scholarships ($3,000): Program for residents of Pennsylvania or Delaware (may be attending school elsewhere) who are female, returning to the second year of a two- or four-year program at an accredited college or university and be currently enrolled in a major, minor, option, or program of arboriculture, horticulture, forestry, or urban forestry.
  • John Wright Memorial Scholarship ($2,000): National program for high school or college students pursuing a career in the commercial arboriculture industry, entering or returning student at an accredited undergraduate institution in the United States.

COMMUNITY EDUCATION:

  • Ohio Chapter ISA Education Grant Program: Established in 2012, the Ohio Chapter International Society of Arboriculture (OCISA) Education Grant Program funds arboricultural education programs or projects within the state of Ohio. The purpose of this grant is to increase the public awareness of and support the advancement of knowledge in the field of arboriculture and urban forestry to benefit people, trees and the environment. Projects are expected to be completed within one years, with a maximum award value of $5,000.

We run all of our grant and scholarship programs on an open, competitive basis, and as a general rule, applicants from the United States or countries represented by an ISA Chapter are eligible for consideration, outside of the restrictions noted above. There is a strong positive correlation between the number and quality of the applications we receive, and the number and quality of the grants we award — so we are always interested in getting the word about our programs out as widely as we can.

Do you know anybody who might be an eligible candidate for any of these programs? If so, the links below take you to standalone, printable requests for proposals/applications (RFPs) for each of the programs. Please feel free to send them on, print them, post them on your organization’s bulletin boards, or share them (or this web page) any other way that might help get them into the hands of a worthy grant recipient. Tree research matters, and this is the crucial first step for getting it done this year!

I snapped this at the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories near Charlotte last spring. We will be returning to the Bartlett Labs in December 2018. Watch this space for news about that!

Bike The Buckeye State: Tour des Trees 2018

On Wednesday, January 17, 2018, our ace office team flipped a switch (proverbially speaking) and registration went live for the Tour des Trees to Benefit TREE Fund. We’re using a new event management system this year, so the team let me be the test beastie up front to make sure everything was working well and that I couldn’t break anything (since I’m very good at breaking things). All went smoothly, so I officially signed up as Registered Rider #1 for this year’s Tour (my fourth), and I am very much looking forward to seeing who joins me in the weeks ahead, knowing some stalwart friends will sign on, and also that we’ll have some great new folks on the road with us this year.

The Tour will run about 530 miles over seven days: July 29 to August 4, inclusive. The route begins in Columbus, Ohio, works its way up to Cleveland and the shore of Lake Erie, then back to finish where we started. Our last day is a “slow roll” into the International Tree Climbing Championships, which is amazing to experience, for those who aren’t familiar with our industry. Click on the image below for an interactive guide to the planned route; we will be adding stops (one about every 25 miles) and/or community engagement events (a couple-three each day) in the months ahead, so there may be some small tweaks to get us in and out of our interim stops safely and efficiently, but this is the macro plan:

Nah, those aren't hills . . . just lumpy terrain. Easy!

I would love to have people from other eras of my life ride the Tour with me this year — Albanians, Iowans, Cackalackans, NR (“Never Rong”) Folks, Squids, Nucs, Rocky College Peeps, Chops, Engineers, Great Danes, Music Geeks, Blog Readers, Imaginary Online Friends, family members, work colleagues, what have you! We are capping the number of registered riders at 125 this year, and we expect the slots to fill up, so if this sounds like a thing you’d want to do, then please get your registration in sooner rather than later. We are also offering a Virtual Tour option this year that will allow you to ride, run, swim, unicycle or otherwise support the cause at a time, place, and distance that works for you — and at a fundraising level you set yourself.

What will you have to do after you register? Raise or pay $3,500 toward our research program (less if you do not ride the full seven days, or if you choose the virtual option), train so that you can manage at least a 15 mph rate over the course of the Tour (if you’re riding), get yourself and your bike to Columbus — and then relax and ride with full support (meals, lodging, road crews, etc.) from an amazing team of pros and volunteers with years and years of experience in bringing this amazing event to fruition. Our tour director, Paul Wood of Black Bear Adventures, is simply the best in the game, so you’ll be in good hands under his guidance and care.

We hope to raise a total of $325,000 from our riders this year for tree research, with the costs of the event itself defrayed by our corporate partners. (If you can’t ride, but you control the coffers at your place of business and would like to become a partner, holla!) The money goes to a great cause, of course, but an equally important part of the Tour is community outreach and engagement — helping folks of all ages understand why urban and community forests are so important to us all, how scientifically-rigorous research directly benefits the trees we live with, and the roles that our professional arborists and urban foresters play in preserving and protecting the canopy. We visit schools, we stop in community centers and parks, we plant trees — and best of all, we have the great Professor Elwood Pricklethorn with us all week to make sure that we always remember to plant the right tree in the right place and give trees a chance!

Want a peek at what that looks like? Here’s a little video of our traditional tree blessing done at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, where we planted a tulip poplar cultivated from the last of the colonial Liberty Trees — which came down at St. John’s College in Annapolis in 1999 after sustaining irreparable damage in Hurricane Floyd:

Hear the spirit? Feel the fun? Appreciate the camaraderie? See me wearing my yellow NAVY cap, 35 years and 1,000 yards from where I spent plebe summer? Wanna experience it all first hand in 2018? (Well, except for that Navy nostalgia bit). Click here for all the details, and hopefully to take that first step to being a part of a truly life-altering experience . . .

Patience, Rigor and Care: The Challenges and Opportunities of Tree Research

Note: This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of ARBORIST NEWS, a publication of International Society of Arboriculture. This content is reprinted with full permission of the publisher.

In our day-to-day professional lives or as decision-makers in green industry businesses, we have the opportunity to sell research-based, scientific knowledge to our customers and clients, separating ourselves as skilled and trained professionals from those who may take a more “I have a hunch” or “We’ve always done it that way” approach to tree care. Our counsel can result in better decision-making by customers and clients regarding their trees, and at a very pragmatic level, our knowledge can also make our businesses more profitable, our workers safer, and our services more marketable, now and in the future.

The macro returns on investment from scientific tree research are becoming ever clearer as our collective body of knowledge grows slowly over time in incremental steps. In recent years, cutting-edge research has demonstrated a host of benefits to be gleaned from a healthy urban canopy, some of the benefits perhaps intuitive, but some of them frankly sublime and surprising, e.g. increased birth weights, increased retail sales, accelerated patient healing, enhanced student learning, increased urban immigration (including skilled workers and new industries), decreased violent crime, decreased ultraviolet radiation exposure, and increased sense of common ownership for public spaces.

Because trees are long-lived organisms, today’s tree care decisions will shape their health and impacts for many generations. ~80% of the U.S. population now lives in developed areas and that number is expected to increase to ~90% by 2050, mirroring global trends in urbanization. Since thriving urban forests are proven to be highly beneficial to community health and prosperity, investments in scientific tree research have and will continue to directly drive positive changes in the aggregate health of cities and suburbs. Scientifically quantifying the benefits of trees to the economy and environment makes it easier for governments, businesses and private citizens to justify and project their return on tree care investment.

Tree Research and Education Endowment (TREE) Fund was founded in 1976 as the International Society of Arboriculture Research Trust. In 2002, the Trust and the National Arborists Foundation merged, reincorporating as TREE Fund. (Note: I have been President and CEO of TREE Fund since 2015). Governed by a national board of trustees, we now fund work globally from our office in Naperville, Illinois. TREE Fund has awarded ~$3.3 million in grants since 2002, of which ~90% have directly supported primary basic and applied research initiatives. These funds have been highly leveraged and multiplied as tree care, urban planning, landscape design, construction and civil engineering professionals implement our findings and educate their constituents on the ever-evolving state of tree science.

As TREE Fund celebrates its 15th anniversary this year as an independent charitable trust, we find it valuable to pause and reflect for a moment on why our work matters — and why the demand for our grant-making programs continues to grow apace. To anchor such a reflection, it is crucial to actively think about what we mean when we discuss and market “research,” especially in an era when global communication networks make it effortless for individuals to access nearly infinite amounts of information of varying or unknown degrees of accuracy and currency.

At bottom line, TREE Fund approaches and values “research” as a set of investigative tools and protocols used to unearth and interpret new facts, revise accepted wisdom in the light of such new facts, and develop practical methods for implementing new or revised understandings in our areas of professional endeavor. Research tools and protocols must be anchored in intellectual and procedural rigor, a willingness to fairly consider alternative explanations for observations, an ability to compile and analyze data using generally accepted statistical and scientific methods, a willingness and ability to replicate findings, and the production of public reports that can be independently affirmed, cited and implemented by subject experts in the field of study, and trained professionals in applied settings.

There’s a whole lot more there, obviously, than the “Wikipedia says” or “a colleague told me that” or “I’ve got a secret method for” or “my gut instincts are” approaches that lay people and professionals alike often cite as “research.” And because of that, these tools and protocols cost a whole lot more — in dollars, time, training, and a host of other scarce resources — than casual, unscientific approaches to answering questions and responding to observations.  This, then, raises a related set of questions based on the returns on investment accrued from committing such scarce resources: how much should I myself, my business, my municipality, my school, and a host of other stakeholders invest in research, and what do we all get out of it at the end of the day?

While the slow growth and long lives of trees makes research and dissemination in our field quite time-consuming, often obscuring short-term return from research investments, we know that TREE Fund and related efforts over the years have directly contributed to:

  • Defining strategies for enhancing tree disease suppression and insect resistance;
  • Developing production, planting, fertilizing and soil amendment strategies to enhance tree growth and long-term survival;
  • Developing more environmentally-sensitive methods of plant management;
  • Producing genetically superior trees that can withstand the stress of urban environments;
  • Improving the quality of nursery grown trees and overall tree survival;
  • Combating diseases and pests without increasing pesticide use through the evolution of integrated pest management programs; and
  • Enhancing public and workforce safety through greater knowledge of why and how trees fail.

In an effort to further quantify the full reach of our work, TREE Fund recently awarded a grant to Drs. Andrew Koeser (University of Florida Gulf Coast’s Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology) and Richard Hauer (University of Wisconsin Stevens Point’s College of Natural Resources) to evaluate the outcomes, outputs, and impacts of 15 years’ worth of primary basic and applied tree research. The results of this study should be available in early 2019. We also are undertaking an initiative in 2018 to create a more readily searchable, indexed database of research to be freely available on our website (treefund.org), to facilitate access to findings as they come through the academic publication cycle. Finally, we intend to conduct a new research needs evaluation in 2019 to ensure our grant lines are evolving with community needs.

We remain grateful to the faculty members, consultants, field researchers and students who have undertaken the often grueling work associated with tree research over the past 15 years, and for the supporters who have empowered their efforts.  Their work has made, and continues to make, a difference directly to all of us over time — even if our long-lived research subjects require us to watch them patiently and carefully with sharp eyes and careful measurements to ascertain steady, incremental advancement and improvement.

Notes: You may support our work by contributing to endowment or operating funds at the TREE Fund website, here. Thanks to Ward Peterson for his invaluable assistance with this article. Photos taken by J. Eric Smith at Urban Forest Nursery, Mt. Vernon, Washington

The Trees We Live With

When friends and new acquaintances outside of the tree care industry hear that I am the “President of TREE Fund,” they almost always express enthusiasm for my work, although the conversation is often a little more complicated than you might expect:

Friend: Oh cool, I love trees! TREE Fund is the one that does all those tree planting events, right?

Me: No, that’s not us.

Friend: Oh, so you’re protecting the Amazon Rain Forest, right?

Me: No, not really, sorry.

Friend: Ummm . . . so you’re the organization that buys up land and puts it into trust so it stays forever wild, right?

Me: No, we don’t do that either.

And so on, and so forth, sometimes for a few more rounds. In trying to cut to the chase politely on such conversations without diminishing people’s enthusiasm for my work with trees, the phrase I’ve found that seems to most quickly make their eyes light up with recognition is when I say: “We fund science that supports the trees we live with.”

People seem to embrace “the trees we live with” quickly and intuitively: these are the trees in our backyards, our street trees, the ones our children climb, the trees that shade our schools, the formal arrangements that make our civic architecture more grand, the little glades that provide green backdrops to our developments, that killer oak along the fairway that costs us a stroke every time we slice a tee shot into it, the canopy above the cemeteries we visit on Veterans and Memorial Days, and so many others. The “trees we live with” are a part of our everyday lives and experiences.

I know, of course, that the benefits of our research and education programs reach well beyond that simple rubric, but getting people outside our industry to think actively about the myriad choices and decisions that can surround a single familiar tree over its lifetime is a great first step in helping them understand not only what TREE Fund does, but also the benefits that professional tree care anchored in rigorous science can provide.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t appreciate “the trees we live with.” Bringing our work home for people that way can help us open the circle to new friends and supporters, one conversation at a time.

Note: This article ran in TREE Fund’s e-Bulletin today. You can subscribe by visiting our website, here, and you could also help us out a lot by making a contribution to the 15th Anniversary Appeal, or by shopping in the TREE Fund Store. The buttons on the homepage should be intuitive in terms of how to do any or all of these things, so thanks for clicking through and following/supporting us!

This live oak stands above my Dad’s grave in Beaufort National Cemetery. I consider it a family friend.

The Iceland Report

We’re happily back home in Chicago again, though it’s colder here today than it was in Iceland, just for the record. Of course, we have a bit more daylight in which to appreciate  the cold, so I suppose that’s a reasonable trade.

I’ve put my usual photo album documenting the trip up at my Flickr site, if you’re interested in giving it a look-see: Icelandic New Year. Also ten quick thoughts, observations, or stray neuron firings, all of which are supported by photographic evidence in the linked Flickr gallery.

1. We did see the Northern Lights on this trip, and they were impressive, as expected. But we also saw something in the heavens that I didn’t expect, when our Northern Icelandic guide pointed out a pair of “glitský” scuttling across the sky one morning. He translated the word as “glitter cloud,” which was apt, though I now know they are actually called stratospheric or nacreous clouds. Like so many things in the sky, it’s hard to take their pictures, but imagine a line of luminous, rainbow colored UFOs passing overhead, leaving wakes in the blue sky behind them, and you’ll get the general gist.

2. Speaking of our Northern Icelandic guide, his name was Gísli, he was a fantastic companion, and he had the best hyphenated job listing I’ve ever heard: Farmer-Guide-Viking-Opera Singer-Classic Car Collector. Our Southern Icelandic Guide, Arne, was a Photographer-Designer-Guide. Multiple jobs are big in Iceland, which I like, as a Professional CEO-Writer-Critic-Crank-Gadabout.

3. I’ve already written about the New Year’s Eve Fireworks. They still blow my mind. And eardrums. Totally awesome.

4. We got our metal on with a visit to Dimmuborgir. If you have to ask, then you’ll never know. Brutal!!!

5. My favorite tasty thing on the trip was smoked arctic char on buttered lava bread. I ate it at a restaurant near Lake Mývatn that doubled as a cow barn. They also sold an Icelandic chocolate there that has the best brand name I’ve heard in recent memory: OMNOM. My other new taste sensation is a non-alcoholic drink that’s only consumed during the Icelandic Christmas season (which lasts 13 days): it’s a mixture of two independently bottled beverages called Malt og Appelsín. It’s sort of like a combo of beer, chocolate, and orange. Better than it sounds, honest.

6. As I usually do, I visited record shops to score some real local musical flavor of the variety I’m not likely to find easily in the States. I came home with six CD’s ranging from ambient jazz through to extreme pagan metal. Initial favorites after first pass are Önnur Mósebók by Moses Hightower, and Börn Loka by Skálmöld, though there’s not a dud in the bunch I acquired.

7. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but we visited a cave that Gísli informed us featured heavily in the story line as “the love cave.” We also visited a couple of other scenes from that show, and when we were watching the last Star Trek movie on the plane on the way home, we were informed that several scenes from that were also filmed in Iceland. I guess it’s just the place to go for alien arctic landscapes.

8. Arriving just after the winter solstice, we knew we’d experience limited daylight, but it honestly wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. Sunrise was around 11:30, sunset was around 3:30, and the dawn and dusk periods were long, so you actually had a reasonable amount of time to process Vitamin D.

9. During the widely hyped 1972 Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky  duel in the World Chess Championship, Fischer stayed at the S-Room Presidential Suite at Hotel Loftleider in Reykjavik. I remember eagerly following those matches as a kid, and playing chess more then than I probably have in any year since. Fast forward 40+ years, and the old Loftleidir has been acquired by Icelandair as part of its country-wide chain of hotels. it is now named Hotel Reykjavik Natura, and we stayed there for the two nights that we were in the capital city. I was rambling about exploring as I do, and I was tickled to come upon a nice little exhibition dedicated to the matches and (more specifically) Fischer. He was something of a tragic case with some noxious beliefs, but Iceland did open its heart to him and provide him sanctuary as a citizen for his final years, and you see a lot of “Bobby Fischer ate here” type recognition around the town. He’s actually buried in a tiny church yard on the south of the island, if you’re a chess nerd and want to make a pilgrimage.

10. When we were in Iceland in 2010, the harbor area was torn up as a new performance art center was under construction. We were pleased to see the final results this trip: Harpa. It’s architecturally striking, and we had a very good meal (fish soup for me, yum!) and saw a nice classical music show on New Year’s Day there. A good way to greet the year, peaceful and quiet after the fireworks carnage of the night before!

Growth Rings In The New Year

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December 11, 2016

Dear Friends of the Urban Forest,

Annual growth rings in temperate-climate trees mark the increments of new wood added each year. As you all know, we can learn a lot by studying a tree’s annual rings: its age, the climates it has thrived in, its relationships with symbiotic organisms, and even the nature and quality of its interactions with humans.

I’ve been thinking about the imagery of annual growth rings as I reflect on my first year with TREE Fund, much of it spent traveling to meet, listen to, and learn from professionals working in the tree care community. We’re a year older now, so what would our latest annual growth ring say about our nonprofit organism if you peeked inside?

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Click the growth rings to support our work.

First off, it would show that we’re growing in both resources acquired and resources expended, and that the ratio of those two flows is trending in a healthy direction, as we’re working to get more of every dollar we raise back out to support our colleagues in the field. We’re doing this by growing new branches and adding new coverage — additional programs, larger grants, and more awards — all to the benefit of the professionals who shelter under our canopy of knowledge.

To sustain this healthy growth, we’re continuing to “open the circle” in a healthy, non-invasive fashion, thereby allowing new friends and supporters to build atop our strong roots, injecting new revenue streams that will ensure we remain vibrant for many years. Trees are long-lived organisms — just as endowment funds are — and we exist to provide long-term support for tree care professionals, helping them adapt to the ever-evolving challenges facing our urban forests.

Of course, there’s another meaning to “annual ring” — namely, a once-per-year call — and I’m hoping you’ll indulge me on that front here as well. As we move forward and upward, solid sustenance sets the stage for potentially transformative growth in 2017, so I respectfully request that you consider a gift to our 2016 year-end appeal. Please make your contribution at treefund.org today. With your support, growth can ring in the New Year from day one.

With best regards, and deep gratitude,

J. Eric Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer

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