How UK cares for over 13,500 trees

There are over 13,500 trees on the University of Kentucky campus providing beauty, shade and solace for the campus community in addition to tremendous ecosystem services.

A team of three full time arborists from UK Facilities Management do pruning, removal, planting and overall health care for all the trees on campus.

“I think more than anything, urban forest is kind of a mindset, of thinking about our urban spaces inside of a forest rather than just trees that are planted around it,” said Nic Williamson, UK’s arboriculture superintendent. “The green spaces aren’t becoming any less important, and in fact, maybe they are even more important. There are all kinds of activities happening inside buildings on campus, but then I think when you step outside and get to walk around that’s when a lot of ideas actually come to life.”

UK’s campus trees have and continue to face the challenges that are characteristic of urban environments, such as construction, soil quality and potentially harmful pests and diseases.

“One of the most asked questions we get when people see us working on campus is ‘Why are you removing that tree?’ We don’t like taking down trees, but the safety of our campus community is one of the primary parts of our job,” said Williamson. “We always make sure the tree absolutely has to be removed. We think of every tree cut that we make on this campus and how it affects the tree canopy for the positive or the negative.”

Working alongside UK’s arborists are student workers, learning first-hand how to make a positive impact on campus’s green spaces.

“Student workers are a great asset to our grounds team. A lot of times they are studying things like soils, hydrology, forestry or natural resources and they are reading and learning about these things with faculty,” said Williamson. “Then they spend time with us and get to clock in time actually doing what they are learning in class.”

To see all the trees UK has on its campus, along with each tree’s benefits including storm water interception, energy conservation, carbon dioxide sequestration and monetary benefits, visit the interactive tree map.

Katherine Johnson

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