Members of the SUNY New Paltz community gathered on Arbor Day 2018 to celebrate the College’s second year of recognition as a Tree Campus USA, and to honor the contributions of the eight presidents of the College with the planting of a new Norway Spruce tree at the main entranceway on the east side of campus.
“I’m humbled that colleagues would think about honoring all of us who have tried to lead this institution,” said President Donald P. Christian. “As an ecologist, and I believe the first and only ecologist to be president at SUNY New Paltz, this has a special connection for me – about 10 or so of the scientific journal articles that I published had to do with trees or forests and their relationships to animals.”
The event was organized by the Campus Tree Committee as an extension of their work supporting New Paltz’s Tree Campus USA designation, which is conferred by the Arbor Day Foundation on colleges and universities that conserve campus trees and use them as educational resources.
“The trees on our campus help connect us to a broader landscape that we’re part of,” said Assistant Professor Eric Keeling. “A landscape that has trees is a landscape where humans feel comfortable, where we feel productive, and where we are able to think clearly. The species on campus – the oaks, maples and hickories – remind us to get out and explore the local forests near campus.”
Keeling has made frequent use of campus trees as a learning lab. In 2015 he partnered with fellow biology faculty and Campus Tree Committee member Carol Rietsma, as well as then-student Dakota Snyder ’15 (Biology), to catalog each of the 2,514 trees that live on campus.
That project has been carried on by a cadre of students and faculty including Dejea Green ’17 (Biology), a former student representative to the Campus Tree Committee whose research on carbon sequestration in the forest on the south side of campus generated findings that she and Keeling have presented at multiple disciplinary conferences over the past year.
A number of other tree-related research projects are ongoing at the College as well, including work conducted by Assistant Professor Kara Belinsky and students studying the populations and habits of birds who call SUNY New Paltz home.
The Campus Tree Committee also depends on contributions from Facilities Maintenance and Operations staff, who work tirelessly to keep campus trees and other flora healthy and attractive.