LEXINGTON, Ky. — There are over 13,500 trees on the University of Kentucky campus, providing beauty, shade and solace for the campus community and tremendous ecosystem services.
A team of three full-time arborists from UK Facilities Management prune, remove, plant, and provide 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 planted around it,” said Nic Williamson, UK’s arboriculture superintendent. “The green spaces aren’t becoming any less important; 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 walk around, that’s when many ideas come to life.”
UK’s campus trees have and continue to face the challenges 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 has to be removed. We think of every tree cut we make on this campus and how it affects the positive or negative tree canopy.”
Working alongside UK’s arborists are student workers, learning first-hand how to positively impact 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 doing what they are learning in class.”
To see all the trees UK has on its campus and each tree’s benefits, including stormwater interception, energy conservation, carbon dioxide sequestration and monetary benefits, visit the interactive tree map.