Dr. Ed Gilman on Semi-Retirement, the Research Trail He Leaves Behind, and the Nexus of Urban Forestry and Arboriculture

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Ed and Betsy Gilman, married 37 years, overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge on a visit to NYC.

Dr. Ed Gilman is a popular presenter among NY arborists and members of our state’s U&CF community, giving talks based on his decades of applied research at the University of Florida (UFL) and countless field observations and conversations with arborists. Gilman retired from UFL in July but— happily for our industry—he is going to continue doing education in the field, especially with commercial arborists around proper pruning techniques. The resources he created on UFL’s website for pruning and all things related to trees and other landscape plants are phenomenal—more about those later.

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The Gilmans’ Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired house on the St. John’s River in Jacksonville

How is the transition to semi-retirement going?
Ed Gilman: Retirement allowed me to step back and take a break from writing; after 120 scientific publications and 35 years of tearing trees apart, I felt it was someone else’s turn. I’ll have more time now to do education in the field with commercial arborists—sharing the practical fruits of my research and that of my colleagues, which I really enjoy. I stay involved with ISA Florida and with the ANSI Pruning Standards committee. It’s nice to remain plugged in and relevant. What would be particularly gratifying is if I could get more people doing what I’m doing in terms of the education of commercial arborists. Stay tuned for more on that.

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NYSUFC VP Brian Skinner on Retirement, with a Twist

skinner-cropped-for-retirement-essaySo … to the surprise of many (including myself), I really did finally retire from National Grid at the end of October. After 45 years of enjoying the care of trees, service to innumerable individuals, mutual and professional associations with many industry friends, and decades of sharing knowledge and expertise whenever and wherever needed, it was time to hang up the hard hat and relish the thought of no-more-sawdust-in-my-shorts-at-the- end-of-the-work-day.

Those who know me well know that I’m a bit of a workaholic (OK, maybe a lot) and could never see retirement as a word that would ever flow from my lips … but it has! I had thought maybe I could help keep the good ship “Social Security” afloat, but also thought, maybe it’s time to get my share out before the sump pumps fail. So … what advice can I pass on to those still not close to that goal post?

Never be afraid to look back at the past; that’s (supposedly!) how we learn from our mistakes. How many mass failures of trees in our urban environment did it take before we finally subscribed to diversity in species selections when planting our streets? Yes, monocultures provide simplicity in appearances and management … until an invasive pest comes to visit.

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Pictorial: SMA Conference Converges on the White River in Indianapolis

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Author Michelle Sutton

Two posts ago, Dewitt Naturalist Christine Manchester did a lively report on her takeaways from the Partners in Community Forestry Conference that took place Nov 16-17 in Indianapolis. Just prior to Partners were professional meetings and conferences like that of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). I edit SMA’s online magazine, City TREES, and have been fortunate to be sent by the Society to cover its conferences for the past twelve years.

SMA has nearly 1900 members from around the world. Members include municipal arborists, urban foresters, nonprofit staff, community volunteers, parks superintendents, educators, DPW directors, landscape architects, natural resource folks, and a big contingent of students. SMA is for everyone who cares about the urban forest and wants a national and international perspective!

In this pictorial I attempt to convey some of the positive energy that reliably infuses the annual SMA conference. It’s a short conference, but a very rich one designed to further the mission of the SMA, “Leading the world in building the confidence, competence, and camaraderie of the family of professionals who create and sustain community forests.”

SMA_logo2008Whether you are an urban forest professional or a longtime volunteer and advocate, I highly recommend you attend the SMA conference, and then stay for the Partners conference. In 2017, SMA and Partners is heading to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The SMA portion will be Nov 13-14, 2017, and the Partners Conference will be Nov 15-16. Hope to see you there!

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We who attended the 2016 SMA conference in November in Indianapolis, Indiana were treated to sunny days. This enhanced our enjoyment of the preconference tour of parks in Indianapolis-adjacent Carmel, including the Village/planned community of West Clay.

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Our Woman in Indy: Christine Manchester Reports from Partners in Community Forestry Conference

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Chris Manchester

ISA Certified Arborist Christine (Chris) Manchester is the naturalist and sustainability coordinator for the Town of Dewitt, and as such she is heavily involved in the oversight of Dewitt’s urban forest. The NYSUFC provided financial assistance to Manchester to reimburse some of her expenses to attend the Partners in Community Forestry Conference last November 16-17 in Indianapolis. Additional support was provided by the Arbor Day Foundation and NYSDEC.

“I can’t thank the Council enough,” she says. “I had a great time, met some very interesting people (there were 559 registered), and gained valuable information. Thank you for this opportunity.” Manchester prepared a presentation about her take-aways from the conference and how they apply most to the work that she does for the Town of DeWitt. That presentation is excerpted here.

Christine Manchester:

The opportunity to network with this many people who are facing many of the same challenges nationally doesn’t present itself every day. Through an informal tally, the majority of people raised their hands that they had been in urban forestry for less than 10 years. There were so many incredible presentations—but there were a couple of topics that resonated with me more than others. The take-aways for me were: 1) partnership/collaboration, 2) thinking about trees as infrastructure and incorporating plantings into streetscapes and 3) focusing on planting trees in poor residential areas.

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NYSDEC Urban Forestry Intern Jennifer Kotary: Get to Know Her!

Jennifer KotaryIn 2016, NYSDEC Urban Forestry Program Coordinator Mary Kramarchyk mentored her second summer intern, Jennifer Kotary. “The goal of the internship is to expose and recruit forestry students into the world of urban forestry,” Kramarchyk says. “Jennifer’s excellent technical and communication skills helped her fit right into DEC’s program. She was thrown into and completed real work—and “extra” activities so meaningful to the success of the program—that, without her, we would not have been able to accomplish.”

Jennifer Kotary:
Two days after my graduation (’16) from SUNY ESF’s Ranger School, I began at NYSDEC via the Research Foundation in the Urban and Community Forestry summer internship. A connection with Mary Kramarchyk at the New York Society of American Foresters Annual Meeting was the beginning to an internship opportunity to better my understanding of what urban forestry is in action. Now that this internship comes to a close, I realize that as urban forestry initiates and sustains connection between community and the environment, my internship has connected me to a critical passion of mine which includes all things trees.

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ESF Ranger School Graduation, where Jennifer celebrates her proudest moment with Director Dr. Michael Bridgen. Photo by June McWarf

People. Urban forestry has connected me to people. I am so thankful to Mary Kramarchyk, Mary Martin, and Sally Kellogg who took me under their wing and amazed me with their adaptive ability to joyfully get done a plethora of responsibilities for the state program. Via statewide ReLeaf meetings, I witnessed the individual personalities of ReLeaf committees flourishing in each New York region. Exposure to NYS DEC’s Bureau of Lands and Forests and the great group of people assisting in statewide forestry is continually inspiring. Lastly, I met an impressive slew of tree-related individuals via the summer’s ReLeaf Conference at Skidmore College.

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WNY CommuniTREE Stewardship Program Completes Inaugural Training

Inaugural group of WNY CommuniTREE Stewards in spring of 2016. Photo by John Choczynski
Inaugural group of WNY CommuniTREE Stewards in spring of 2016. Photo by John Choczynski

By Lori Brockelbank, NYSUFC Treasurer and Certified Arborist/Municipal Specialist, Wendel Companies

The first-ever Western NY CommuniTREE Stewardship Program instruction has come to a close for most of the participants, but the learning and experience continues. You can read more about the program’s mission and partners on this earlier blog post. Out of the 20 people that initially signed up for the course, 13 completed the classroom requirements.

At the conclusion of the classroom sessions, I will admit I had my doubts about whether the students had truly received enough training to go out on their own. I know personally I learn more when I get my hands dirty and I am in the field applying the classroom instruction. A few of the students expressed the same concerns; for this reason each student is required to volunteer 10 hours of supervised field time doing tree planting and/or small tree pruning in a variety of places throughout the City of Buffalo. This field work is a great chance for students to get further coaching and ask questions.

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More ReLeaf Reflections

Kate Littlefield
Kate Littlefield

I am a full-time graduate student in the SUNY ESF Landscape Architecture Department, but I am currently working as a summer aide within the City of Syracuse Urban Forestry Department. Most of my job entails working out in the field performing inspections and inventory and writing up pruning
prescriptions for both mature and newly planted trees.

The Skidmore ReLeaf conference was the first of its kind that I have attended. I never knew how tightly knit the NYS urban forestry community was. Everyone was very supportive and curious of the work others have done, and there was a constant level of excitement present in all of the interactions I witnessed.

The presentations were all very interesting and many of them demonstrated the effectiveness of various tools and practices within the profession. For example, I learned that vegetation management through the use of a fire regime has been effective and even approved as a management practice in designated places within an area as densely populated as the Albany-Colonie region. Specific examples like this can put a positive spin on the use of fire as a management technique and hopefully educate the greater public about the benefits that controlled burns have on our forest and urban forest ecosystems. —Kate Littlefield 

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ReLeaf 2016 Reflections

Did you know that scholarships toward registration for the annual ReLeaf conference are available through the DEC for qualified applicants? These folks received awards this year.

IMG_0413Dewitt’s Nicholas Quilty-Koval:

The Releaf Conference was fantastic. It was a great experience and I was able to talk to many great people who encouraged me to pursue my goal of a career in urban planning.

In my community I have the opportunity to go door-to-door and talk to people about receiving a free tree. I am involved in the Save The Rain program for the Town of Dewitt. This program works with OEC (Onondaga Earth Corps) in an attempt to educate the nearby community about the benefits of trees as well as saving the rain. Our goal is to plant trees in the local area in order to do things such as decrease the amount of flooding, improve the air quality, and improve the appearance of the neighborhoods. I am also involved in the Town’s attempt to save ash trees that have been impacted by emerald ash borer. I have marked trees for removal as well as treatment. I also work with database software to help track the trees in our area.

Every aspect of the conference gave me insight into new topics and I learned a lot. It also connected ideas that I had originally been exposed to in my first year at college. There are many great takeaways that I received from the conference; the biggest one came from the Urban Wood Utilization talks with Jim Maloney and Tom Derby. I learned that we should not grind up ash and other trees into mulch, but instead should try to make them into something more useful and high-value, from a bench to a turkey call. Doing this would allow for more revenue from the tree and more meaningful products. I learned that marketing is a big key to the success of this idea of reusing the wood from urban trees.

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Getting the Word Out: Advice for Writing about Urban Forestry

by Michelle Sutton, NYSUFC Blog & E-news Editor

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Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) in bloom. Michelle Sutton

Why Write?
My colleague Jeff Shimonski was the director of horticulture for Jungle Island in Miami, Florida for 39 years. He retired from that position in 2014 and now works as an urban forestry consultant. He also continues to write about horticulture for a variety of publications, including the Biscayne Times, for which he’s written 72 columns.

“Ever since I started working professionally in horticulture I always wanted to write articles for newspapers, magazines, and journals,” he says. “It was a big thrill for me to get published for the first time in an international journal.”

I remember that thrill, too. I’ve been freelance writing since 1998 and freelance editing since 2005. I can relate to both sides of the editor’s desk. I’ve been the writer whose submissions are rejected, and I’ve been the editor who had to do some polite rejecting. I have some thoughts to share based on my familiarity with both sides of the exchange.

Why write about urban forestry? First of all, our field needs more advocacy and visibility, in the form of online or print features, columns, and letters to the editor. The more publications we have a presence in—from small-town papers to national magazines and blogs—the more the field of urban forestry is elevated. You may also be motivated to write for the sheer pleasure and gratification of it, for a little extra money, to develop your writing ability, or to help promote your business. Sharing your expertise in a lively way is an effective form of marketing yourself, your company, or the nonprofit you’re involved with, while getting urban forestry out in the public eye.

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Urban Forestry Roundtable Repository

Balling up a mature bur oak to be moved. Photo by Greg Hove
Balling up a mature bur oak in preparation for relocation. Photo by Greg Hove

A repository of 26 roundtables from CITY TREES magazine 2005-2015 is freely available on the home page of the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) website, www.urban-forestry.com.

The roundtable format was a suggestion from Dr. Nina Bassuk that City Trees took and ran with. Each roundtable contains advice and anecdotes on a theme from 8 to 10 professionals. The information will be of interest to anyone involved in the urban and community forestry (UCF) world!

The topics are: Bees, Bioswales, Building Bridges Between LAs and MAs, Building Bridges with City Depts, Part I and II, Cemeteries, Climate Change, Consulting, Contract Growing Partnerships, Drought, EAB, Fall Planting, Gas Lines and Trees, Historic Trees, Invasives, Large Tree Relocation, Medians, Memorial Trees, Pruning Cycles, Sewer Lines, Social Networking, Teaching, Tree Boards, Tree Lights, Urban Forestry’s Location in City Departments, Urban Fruit Trees, Urban Wood, Zoos. A roundtable about Tree Damage after Flooding will come out this spring.

Sample entries from roundtables follow. Please go to www.urban-forestry.com to take advantage of this resource and learn more about the SMA, which welcomes members from all spheres of the UCF world (paid or volunteer).

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