Taking a Tree Inventory Online

University of Chicago’s Campus Environment team knew it was time to move beyond a limited-use, printed tree inventory to an online version that could facilitate management of the university’s urban forest. This would allow them to determine the structural stability of trees on the Main Quadrangle, many of which were more than 100 years old, while protecting these trees during the many construction projects on campus.

We conducted a Bartlett Inventory Solutions assessment of the 3,700 trees on the campus, providing an online management tool that enables a ready look at campus trees sorted by variables including species, condition, size and more. This inventory is the basis for the management plan we developed for the University.

Using sonic tomography to create three-dimensional images of trunk decay.

“The [paper] inventory we had was not particularly useful,” says Richard Bumstead, Associate Director for Campus Environment. “With this new inventory, I have an online record of each tree, its assessment, and its value. When I can talk to university administrators and say that a specific tree is worth $86,000, it helps them to see that these trees are assets The management plan also helps in maintaining donor relations. If donors have questions about their donor trees, they can remotely look at them online. We have one donor who’s on her third tree now.”

When the management plan flagged roughly 30 trees requiring further evaluation, Bartlett Certified Arborists inspected the upper reaches of the trees and used ArborSonic 3D Acoustic Tomographs—essentially CT scans for trees—to check for decay. Once informed by the resulting data, they were able to recommend targeted removals.

No matter the project, at Bartlett, our Arborist Representatives visit the site of each project and recommend targeted protective measures.

“Bartlett is our go-to firm for assessment of tree health,” says Richard Bumstead. “If a tree needs to be removed, our Arborist will tell me—rather than suggest we put money into it and inch it along, when it really has no future. In an overriding sense, it’s a public safety issue. So we heed his advice.”

Bumstead adds, “One of our Bartlett contacts put us in touch with a company that processes local downed wood so that it can be reused. So some of our new buildings have furnishings made of trees that had to be removed for the project.”

With the Bartlett inventory, I have an online record of each tree, its assessment, and its value. When I can talk to university administrators and say that a specific tree is worth $86,000, it helps them to see that these trees are assets.

Richard Bumstead,
Associate Director for Campus Environment
University of Chicago

University of Chicago enjoys global acclaim for both its world-class academics and architecturally relevant campus. With century-old trees in a designated campus-wide Botanic Garden, iconic structures by Frank Lloyd Wright and Helmut Jahn exist harmoniously with Gothic masterworks.

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