Nina Bassuk Receives Frederick Law Olmsted Award from Arbor Day Foundation

RELEAF 255Last fall, the NYSUFC nominated beloved Cornell Urban Horticulture Institute (UHI) Director and longtime former Council President Nina Bassuk for the Arbor Day Foundation’s Frederick Law Olmsted Award. Current Council President Andy Hillman read the award description and said, “This appears to have been written for Nina!”

The Frederick Law Olmsted award recognizes an outstanding individual with a lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation at a state or regional level. Further, it honors someone who: shows outstanding personal commitment over their career or lifetime for the betterment of the environment, mobilizes people in tree planting and care, makes unique or extraordinary contributions and commitment with regards to tree planting, landscape, conservation, education, or research, and serves as a role model and mentor to others.

The Council is so very pleased to announce that Nina received the Frederick Law Olmsted Award for 2015. Here is a video the Arbor Day Foundation made about Nina’s work that shows why she was the perfect candidate:

It was challenging to summarize Nina’s accomplishments in the three pages indicated by the award nomination guidelines. Here are some highlights:

  • Thanks to Dr. Bassuk’s research and extension efforts in bare root transplanting technology, tens of thousands of trees have been planted in New York and the greater Northeast that would otherwise not have been. In 2014 alone, 8800 bare root trees were purchased by 93 municipalities across 11 states from Schichtel’s Nursery in Western NY.
  • Dr. Bassuk has been the City of Ithaca Shade Tree Advisory Committee Chair since 1985, and she served on the Ithaca Parks Commission from 1991-2003. She served as the President of the NYS Urban Forestry Council from 1990-2001 and thereafter as a Board Member.

  • Her presentations schedule over the last 14 years alone has been grueling—233 talks around the U.S. and abroad. Her willingness to travel extensively around the state and to such far-flung places as Italy, Chile, and Sweden speaks to her personal commitment to teaching as many people as possible how to have the most success with tree planting and care in urban environments.
  • Each year in September and October, Dr. Bassuk spends her weekends in the trenches with the Student Weekend Arborist Team (SWAT) as they perform low-cost tree inventories for municipalities in New York and beyond. Fayetteville Tree Commission Chair Pat Tobin says, “I found it remarkable given how busy she is, that there she was, right along with the students, for the whole of our inventory process.”
  • Over the course of her 35 years as professor and head of UHI, Dr. Bassuk has received 54 grants for research, extension, and teaching; advised 44 graduate students with majors in horticulture or landscape architecture, 23 graduate students with minors in those fields, and dozens of undergraduate students; taught upper-level undergraduate courses in woody plant ID, selection, design, and establishment; been an active participant in 15 professional societies; served on 9 editorial/advisory boards; served on dozens of departmental and campus committees; given 233 invited presentations in the past 14 years alone; won 21 awards and honors; consulted on 16 major landscape installations including the Highline in NYC and for one of three finalist teams for the World Trade Center Memorial competition; published 112 research manuscripts in academic journals like Arboriculture & Urban Forestry; written 76 extension publications and filmed 5 instructional DVDs; and coauthored the book, Trees in the Urban Landscape: Site Assessment, Design and Installation. Dr. Bassuk served from 1991-2012 as Director of Graduate Studies in the Field of Horticulture at Cornell.
  • Dr. Bassuk has used applied research to, among other things: determine the best species and cultivars for urban use and compile them in the seminal guide, Recommended Urban Trees, find out which trees can be successfully planted in fall vs. spring, and bare root vs. B&B, hybridize, propagate, and select high-ph oaks for the urban environment, and find the best protocols for long-term remediation of urban soils.
  • She has created the extensive woody plant ID and study aid, the Cornell Woody Plants Database, which rivals any online horticultural resource in utility and comprehensiveness. Her upper level, two-semester, eight-credit course at Cornell, co-taught with the landscape architect Peter Trowbridge, “Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design and Landscape Establishment,” has trained hundreds of horticulture and landscape architect students in the best practices the UHI has to offer, ensuring that the research done there is carried out into the world by the new professionals in those fields.

Congratulations, Nina! This is an award well deserved many times over. All of us on the Council are proud of you, and we are ever-grateful for your many contributions to urban forestry in our state.

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