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Moravian College Ecology Students Inventory Campus Trees

Scotch Elm Tree on Priscilla Payne Hurd Campus Measured for Record

Bethlehem, Pa., October 4, 2013—Moravian College might be home to Pennsylvania’s next state champion – at least the measurements compiled by Frank Kuserk’s ecology class and Bartlett Tree Experts Inc. seem to indicate that.

On a recent Friday afternoon, the ecology (BIOL 360) class worked with the international tree-care company to continue the College’s campus tree inventory project. This robust undertaking includes identifying tree types, recording their GPS coordinates, measuring vital information (e.g. diameter, height, etc.), and assessing the health of each tree on Moravian’s campuses. During this process, students also measured a towering Scotch elm that looms near Foy Concert Hall on the Priscilla Payne Hurd Campus. With a measured trunk circumference of 22 feet, three inches, and a height of 85 feet, Kuserk predicts it will dwarf the current state champion, a designation granted jointly by the Pennsylvania Forestry Association and Pennsylvania Forest Service.

“We’re pretty sure our Scotch elm will surpass the old state champ,” said Kuserk, who serves as director of the environmental studies and sciences program at Moravian. “Right now, we’ll submit all of our measurements to the state, and they’ll tell us if it is certified as the champion – though we don’t quite know how long that process will take.” Moravian College General Services Manager Randy Haffling added that his staff has even begun investigating if it might be the country’s largest Scotch elm, and hopes to uncover more about the tree in the Moravian Archives.

While the certification would be quite an accomplishment, the College is already in line to reap benefits from the inventory project, according to Haffling. The project’s health assessment of each tree is of great value, as well as the opportunity to involve students in the collection of information and the creation of the inventory’s online database, which is expected to be live by spring. As an assignment, the ecology class will be required to research and prepare reports that will be part of the database. Nearly 500 trees have been added to the inventory; though only trees of a certain size were catalogued.

“We wanted students involved throughout the process as much as possible,” said Haffling. “We wanted this process to be educational.” In addition, Haffling hopes to one day partner with local elementary schools, providing students and teachers with a self-guided tour of the trees on campus. The campus tree inventory project came together last spring thanks to the joint efforts of Moravian’s Sustainability Committee, Office of Facilities Management, Planning and Construction, and the United Student Government. Each group contributed $2,000 to fund the project, which Haffling coordinates.

Bartlett was selected because of the company’s expertise and resume, having worked on a number of high-profile projects, including the maintenance of the trees for the 9/11 memorial. During the inventory, the College received rave reviews from Bartlett for the health and vitality of its trees, noting that more than 95% of the campus’ trees are in good health; 70-75% is the norm.

“We appreciate the work of our faculty and staff, as well as the students, who have put in so much time into developing our tree inventory, which will serve as a tremendous asset to the College,” President Bryon Grigsby ’90 said. “I am inspired to see the interest in preserving and managing the impressive tree population we have, which is as much a part of our campus as our brick and mortar buildings.”

Haffling seconded Grigsby’s thoughts, adding that the impact the foliage has on the campus shouldn’t be overlooked. “When people think of coming to Moravian, they know we’re located in the city, and they assume there is not going to be a lot of mature trees. But that’s not true here,” he explained. “When you are walking under our large, mature trees, it gives our campus a sense of longevity – a sense of age. You don’t find that everywhere.”

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America’s sixth-oldest college. Moravian partners with students to build a strong foundation for their future. Visit the College’s website at www.moravian.edu.