Adventures in Maui and Lana’i

As mentioned in the prior post, Marcia and I were in Hawai’i last week for the Tree Care Industry Association’s Winter Management Conference, and we had a delightful time while we were there. We are already trying to figure out a time and itinerary for a return, as we only got to see two of the islands (Maui and Lana’i) this time around, and they were so very unique and different that we expect each island will bring its own special “wow” moments for us.

On the professional front, I view my annual remarks at Winter Management as my “accountability report” to the owners and senior executives of the many businesses who make TREE Fund‘s work possible with their contributions, and whose employees and customers should ultimately benefit from what we do. We had a lot of exciting TREE Fund news over the past year, so I was glad to share that — and equally excited to share our (ambitious) plans for the year ahead. This is a good gig, and I get to do good work with and for good people for a good cause. Goodie!

On a personal front, it was lovely to have evenings and a couple of extra days with Mine Bestest. We both travel so much in our work that it’s always a joy when our schedules align, especially when they allow us to explore new parts of the world together. One of our principles when we travel is that we like to have adventures — which I essentially define as: “Look at where most of the tourists are going, and then go in the opposite direction.” I tend to consider it a proper adventure only if there’s some accidental trespassing involved, or someone comes home bleeding, or we have to get over/around/through some combination of creeks, walls, fences, tar pits, mud flats, or other exciting obstacles and terrain. Marcia, knowing this is my proclivity, is often a good check on things, and is not adverse to offering a firm “Nope!” when I point down a crumbling ravine and say “That way?”

Click on the photo of Marcia having an adventure below for a link to our trip gallery; I’ll let you decide whether it was my path or hers we were walking here . . .

On The Road Again (For The Trees)

At 5:30am yesterday, under what could charitably be described as “wintry mix,” I hopped in our car, cranked up some tunes, and headed down to Indianapolis for the first of my many 2018 speaking engagements on behalf of TREE Fund. In the weeks ahead, I will be in New York, Hawai’i, Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee and New Mexico . . . and that just gets me to early April. Zoom zoom!

As President and CEO of TREE Fund, my position description says (among other things) that I am to “represent the Fund to its donors, volunteers, partners, researchers, the public and all other stakeholders.” I take that task seriously, and recognize that my ability to do it from my office in Naperville, Illinois is limited, at best; we do good online and virtual communications work, sure, but the face-to-face pitch is core to convincing people to support what we do. Equally important: reporting back to those who have supported us on how their generosity made a difference, and what we were able to do with it.

I don’t know exactly how many people I will stand in front of (in person, or on camera) over the year ahead — but it’s a pretty big number. I’m a reasonably deft public speaker and can expand or contract my core talk to run anywhere from three minutes to an hour, as requested by my hosts, or as a “read of the room” indicates will work best for the people in attendance. (There’s a huge difference in audience response over the course of a typical conference day; I’d say the 10:30 AM slot right after a mid-morning break is the best gig, most of the time, when people are caffeinated, stretched and alert, but not quite restless for lunch yet).

That said, I do have a baseline presentation, and we actually share a generic version of it with our 21 Chapter Liaisons and other key supporters around the country  in case they need to do their own presentations, or want to have some highlights to insert into their own publications, websites, conferences and/or seminars. The Indiana Arborist Association were the first to hear our new 2018 report . . . and I provide a link below to the generic slide deck I used, if you’re curious about what it is we actually do over the course of the year at TREE Fund, beside ride our bikes 500+ miles for research, and solicit proposals for grants:

TREE Fund Report of Activities, 2017-2018

As always, it’s good work for a good cause — and one of the final slides in the deck tells you what you can do to help us out. Feel free to follow our activities by signing up for our monthly newsletter (hit the subscribe button here), share our information, or even invite me to come speak to your own green industry friends and colleagues.

My Road Warrior’s Motto: Have iPod (filled with horrible grindcore, death metal and industrial music that I can’t play at home), Will Travel. And I do it for the trees.

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 . . .

Key West to Chicago . . .

It was very warm and very nice in Key West while we were there.

It was neither in Chicago, nor is it since our return last night.

Oh well, that’s what vacation is for, I suppose.

Some snaps of the New Year’s festivities on Duval Street below. The crowds were dense and formidable, since it’s just a two-lane city street in front of the shoe drop, not a vast public square as in New York City. We came, we saw, we left as soon as it was done accordingly.

And then we returned to the frigid zone the next day. It’s not pleasant, but I will note that even when the weather is dire, I always find that Chicago is one of the prettiest cities on the planet when you’re making final approach in the evening, so rather than beefing about the cold, I celebrate returning home with those images in mind instead, and share them with you below.