The Buzz about SUNY ESF, Our ReLeaf 2015 Host

Gateway Center suny esf picA number of NYSUFC members are also alums of SUNY ESF (College of Environmental Science and Forestry), including Kim Zhang and Council Treasurer Lori Brockelbank, our Council Secretary Steve Harris, and Executive Secretary Liana Gooding’s husband Mark. For those of you who are new to SUNY ESF, here’s the buzz. One standout stat: the average student: faculty ratio is 12:1. 

ESF at a Glance

Founded in 1911, ESF is the nation’s oldest and most respected college dedicated solely to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies and building a sustainable future.

  • The ESF campus occupies 12 acres in Syracuse and 25,000 acres on its regional campuses throughout Central New York and the Adirondack Park.
  • The ESF student body consists of approximately 1,650 undergraduate students and 600 graduate students.
  • ESF alumni number more than 18,000 worldwide.
  • ESF offers 24 undergraduate and 30 graduate degree programs to choose from, including bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral (Ph.D.) programs in the sciences, engineering, forestry and landscape architecture. Associate degree programs are offered at ESF’s Ranger School in the Adirondacks.
  • The College’s long-standing partnership with Syracuse University provides ESF students with the opportunity to take classes at SU, use library and computing facilities, join student clubs and eat in SU dining halls.
  • US News & World Report ranks ESF among the “Top 50 Public National Universities” and one of the top 50 “Great Schools at Great Prices.” Here’s an article they did about ESF.
  • Forbes magazine ranks ESF the 3rd best college in the nation for women in science and engineering.
  • ESF students contribute more than 70,000 hours of community service each year, and the College has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
  • The College sponsors intercollegiate athletic teams in basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, indoor track and timber sports.


Meet CCE Onondaga’s Kim Zhang!

Kim Zhang
Kim Zhang at Green Lakes State Park in Fayetteville, NY

Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in urban forestry?
Kim Zhang: Growing up in the Bronx, I didn’t have many childhood experiences that involved nature. It wasn’t until high school that I accidentally joined the environmental club when I followed my newly met friend to the club meeting. I instantly fell in love with the club and the school garden, the “Enchanted Garden.” It really was enchanting, like I was stepping into another world. I was stepping out of the urban environment into a forest with a natural brook running through it, a pond with fish and frogs, and a colorful understory of plants and shrubs. Following my sophomore year, I participated in the Wave Hill Summer Forest Project internship that introduced me to urban natural areas and working to protect them. These two experiences started me on my landscape architecture and urban forestry path.

What has been your career trajectory?
KZ: I received my Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from SUNY ESF in 2010. Following my degree, I returned to New York City and started work at New York Restoration Project (NYRP), a non-profit environmental organization. I worked on the Million Trees Initiative, planting trees on private properties. I then transitioned into the Capital Department at NYRP, where I worked under two landscape designers to redesign community gardens that NYRP managed. I really enjoyed the work I did here but wanted to learn more about how urban planning and design can impact a city’s vitality. So after three years at NYRP, I decided it was time for me to return to SUNY ESF for my master’s degree in Environmental and Community Land Planning.

enchanted garden Kim Zhang
The Enchanted Garden at Kim’s high school in the Bronx.

Can you tell us some about your current position?
KZ: When I moved back to Syracuse, I found an internship that turned into a full-time position, working on the Save the Rain tree planting program through Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Onondaga County. I recently returned as a program assistant working on the Natural Resource Team. In this role I collaborate with Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District and NYSDEC, focusing on Emerald Ash Borer and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. In addition, I work with volunteer tree stewards, youth, community outreach, and tree planting. My favorite part of the job is community development; I enjoy working with youth, conducting outreach, and getting community residents excited about trees!

What are some of your future goals?
KZ: I plan to take the ISA Certified Arborist exam sometime within the next couple of years. I hope to finish my master’s degree with a concentration in urban planning and park planning sometime soon!

What are your interests in your free time?
KZ: I enjoy watching cooking shows and learning new recipes. From time to time, I bike and enjoy hiking with friends and pointing out trees to them. Within the past year, I gained an interest in terrarium building and make them as gifts for friends.

Ithaca’s Urban Forest Master Plan: A Template for Other Munis

Ithaca UFMPLooking for a template as you craft or revise your community’s urban forest master plan (UFMP)? Ithaca once again leads the way. The newly revised document includes a master plan, tree inventory data, and arboricultural guidelines.

To borrow from the Pittsburgh UFMP, “An Urban Forest Master Plan is a road map, providing detailed information, recommendations, and resources needed to effectively and proactively manage and grow a city’s tree canopy. More importantly it provides a shared vision for the future of the urban forest to inspire and engage stakeholders in the care and protection of trees.”

Ithaca Shade Tree Advisory Committee Chair Nina Bassuk says, “Ithaca’s newly revised UFMP has components that many municipalities might be interested in, including specs for soil, soil volume, and nursery stock. It also has our tree care guidelines for site selection, tree selection, tree protection during construction, tree removal, and even our solar panel policy.” There are meticulously rendered tree planting details for varied circumstances including planting with CU-Structural Soil.

Nina says, “I would also like to point folks to our Community Forestry website, where resources include several management plans and ordinances that might be of interest, and advice on creating master plans.”

Read more…

Betty Shimo Looks Back

Betty Shimo served as Executive Secretary of the NYSUFC from 2005-2015 and she helped plan and coordinate and also facilitated 11 ReLeaf Conferences held all over the state.

RELEAF 130Betty first got connected to the Council when she was hired to facilitate the ReLeaf Conference in Utica in 2003. In 2004, she was contracted by the Council to conduct a statewide urban forestry needs survey for the Council.  This survey was beneficial in helping DEC increase their yearly grant total from the state EPF funding line from $150,000 to $500,000.

Betty says, “My time with the Council has been one of the best experiences of my life—not just in terms of work, but because of all I learned and the friends I made along the way. They will be in my heart always. The position was challenging for me in a good way, and the experience of being part of that group for 12+ years was warm and wonderful.”  

Read more…

The LEED Platinum-Certified Gateway Center: Our Home at ReLeaf 2015

Gateway CenterThe ReLeaf conference this year is in the heart of the SUNY ESF campus. The new Gateway Center, erected in 2012, surpasses qualification for its LEED platinum status with its renewable energy system, water quality and conservation systems, ecological landscaping, air quality and more. Conferees will get to tour the Center, including its green roof.

Gateway Center Energy Features:
Contains 50,000 square feet of space
Produces significantly more energy than it consumes
Features a roof-mounted solar thermal system
Houses a biomass-fueled combined heat and power system
Employs a natural ventilation system with radiant floor heating
Features lighting occupancy sensors and natural day lighting controls

An intro to the Gateway Center:

An in-depth look at the design, construction, and mission of the Gateway Center:

A quick look at the green roof:



American Chestnut Program at SUNY ESF Featured at the Upcoming ReLeaf Conference

At the 2015 ReLeaf Conference, you will have the opportunity to go behind the scenes of the SUNY ESF Chestnut Research and Restoration Project. Why is this research so critical? Why is bread mold key to the restoration of the American chestnut (Castanea dentata)? Watch these videos, and just try not to become infected with enthusiasm for this effort!

On ReLeaf Thursday, take a tour with Dr. Chuck Maynard of the laboratory and greenhouse where this groundbreaking research takes place. On Friday, hear the keynote talk from Maynard and Dr. Bill Powell, codirectors of the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project, about restoring the American Chestnut.

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Getting to Know Council Treasurer Lori Brockelbank

Lori on TdT ride
Lori (center) with fellow Tour des Trees riders in Wisconsin in 2014. Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

Like so many of our members, Council Treasurer Lori Brockelbank is living a big, passionate life. This includes riding for the third year in a row in the STIHL Tour des Trees to benefit the TREE fund. Lori will join riders headed to Florida to ride 500 miles during the week of October 25-31.

Full-tour cyclists commit to raising at least $3,500 for the TREE Fund. The money raised supports the discovery of better methods for propagation, planting and care of urban trees.

Lori with Tour des Trees friend Frazer Pehmoeller
Lori with Tour des Trees friend Frazer Pehmoeller

The Tour also funds education programs aimed at connecting young people with the environment and with career opportunities in the green industries. You can support Lori’s TEAM NY here, and you can read about Lori’s Tour des Trees experiences—and many other things going on in Lori’s life—on her blog, The Gypsy Arborist, and on a TAKING ROOT blog post from last year.

Can you tell us about childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in arboriculture and urban forestry?
Lori Brockelbank: I grew up in an area surrounded by a swamp and forest that I would explore with my dogs in tow, and on Sunday mornings my dad and I would ride our horses on the nearby trails. We also had a wood burning stove, so my summers were spent in part logging with my dad—not my favorite thing to do. I had a book that I would use for pressing leaves during the summers and I remember decorating the walls in my bedroom with colorful fall leaves. In fifth grade, I attended conservation field days where I was introduced to the environmental field. It stuck with me and I do believe that is what ultimately led me to my career.

Read more…

Registration Open for ReLeaf at SUNY ESF!

It’s going to be a great ReLeaf 2015! July 16-18 at SUNY ESF in Syracuse.

Program, registration form, and conference details are available now on the NYSUFC website HERE


The theme, fitting for the conference venue, is “Environmental Science and Urban Forestry.”

Some conference highlights: 

*American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project laboratory tour and keynote talk

*Tour of SUNY ESF Gateway Center Green Roof and Illick Hall Rain Garden 

*Popular presenter Dave Nowak on Urban Forestry in a Changing Environment 

*Opportunities and Solutions for Green Infrastructure

*Onondaga Lake Ecosystem Restoration 

*Lessons from the Deer Abundance and Distribution Study in the Town of Dewitt

*Oakwood Cemetery Tree Identification

Please join us for the 23rd Annual NY ReLeaf Conference to learn, network, and connect with new friends and old! 


MillionTreesNYC Short Film

My friend Jinghua Tu made a two-minute short film of MillionTreesNYC stewardship day in Van Cortland Park, in which she interviewed some volunteers and staff.

The MillionTreesNYC campaign is now over 954,399 trees strong and as we get closer to reaching a million, our need is greater than ever for active, involved citizens to help us care for these trees over the long haul. These trees, as you know, make our communities a better place to live as they provide shade, clean air, and beauty.

On April 25, nearly 400 volunteers joined us in caring for new forests in Van Cortlandt, Inwood Hill, Rockaway Community, Clove Lakes, Wolfe’s Pond, and Conference House Parks, helping us to create a more resilient urban forest. Without your dedication and hard work, this effort would not have been possible. -Ning Zhang, Outreach Coordinator at MillionTreesNYC 

Arbor Day Celebration: Utica

Ruth Meier, a Master Gardener from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County assists student volunteers from the Notre Dame High School NJROTC with properly planting and mulching one of 20 katsuras that will help restore the Olmsted-designed tree canopy in Utica's FT Proctor Park. (photo (c) 2015 Roger B. Smith)
Ruth Meier, a Master Gardener from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County assists student volunteers from the Notre Dame High School NJROTC with properly planting and mulching one of 20 bare root katsuras that will help restore the Olmsted-designed tree canopy in Utica’s FT Proctor Park. (photo (c) 2015 Roger B. Smith)

Arbor Day was celebrated on Friday, April 24, and the Central New York Conservancy celebrated it in style with the City of Utica!

The 3-day weekend event honored the spirit of Arbor Day, with local tree experts donating their time and talent to remove and prune trees, two lectures about safety procedures when working around trees and proper pruning, the planting of numerous trees, and a ceremonial tree planting in FT Proctor Park. All events were free and open to the public.

Read more…