Goucher students help Towson’s tree survey
Alliance is identifying and assessing trees downtown
In the 40 years Roger Gookin worked as a utility contractor for a local firm, he was taught to look at trees as obstacles — objects standing in the way of completing a project.
After retiring in 2013 and later joining the Green Towson Alliance, Gookin said he sees trees in a different light.
“I see them as community assets,” he said.
Gookin is putting that thought into action, volunteering to collect data for the alliance’s Downtown Towson Tree Survey, which seeks to identify, measure, count and assess trees in downtown Towson.
The Green Towson Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and promoting green space in Towson, launched the effort to identify trees that are unhealthy and need replanting — and where more are needed.
Wendy Jacobs, a founding member of the alliance, reached out to nearby Goucher College for assistance, and got a positive response from students and faculty. This semester, students from several Goucher courses have taken field trips to downtown Towson to help conduct the survey.
Students come from a field ecology lab course taught by professor of biology and ecology Cynthia Kicklighter, as well as two other courses taught by environmental science professor Germán Mora. Goucher is providing the help free of charge.
The inventory includes trees on public land in the downtown area, though Jacobs said some trees on private land have been surveyed when the alliance gets permis- sion to enter the property.
Figuring out which types of trees are growing around Towson and assessing them will give the Green Towson Alliance an idea of what can be done to make Towson’s stock of trees healthier. The survey will help the group determine sick trees that need care and others that should be replaced, Jacobs said.
Jacobs said the survey will also give the group some needed baseline data; she currently can’t estimate the number of trees in the area.
Students and alliance volunteers use a smartphone to mark GPS coordinates of each tree, measure its circumference and estimate the height using trigonometry. Students were already completing similar work for a field ecology lab course in the forest on Goucher’s campus, so it was easy to modify that lesson to help with the Towson tree survey, Kicklighter said.
There are challenges to studying trees in