It’s good experience in collecting data,
and it will hopefully raise awareness
for campus trees,” Missi said. “There
are a lot of applications for what we’re
The pair has also been grateful to
receive help from faculty.
Their work will provide a lasting
digital record for our campus
community and the public to use and
enjoy,” said Peter Galvin, associate
professor of geosciences.
A tree inventory
Galvin takes his biogeography
students to local arboretums such as
Perrin Park, Cave Hill Cemetery, and
Bernheim Forest, and the IU Southeast
campus ranks among those locations as
one of the most diverse and beautiful
tree collections in the region.
Perkins’ and Missi’s work is
evidence of that diversity.
As of early April,
Perkins said they had
mapped 893 trees and
Combining technology and
Like many projects before it, the
campus tree inventory started because
of an unusual class assignment.
During a class last year, Perkins, a
geoscience senior, participated in a
project mapping light posts on campus.
The students were learning to use
geographic information systems (GIS)
technology, which when used with
GPS tools, allows a scientist to add
useful information to whatever is being
mapped. More than dots on a map,
key attributes can be logged about the
particular dots.
It doesn’t sound all that exciting
until you start understanding the
applications and uses for what you’re
mapping,” Perkins said. “Something
like mapping light posts can help you
solve problems with safety.”
Perkins was then challenged to think of
her own project that would help solve a
specific problem.
While we were out there mapping
the light posts, I noticed 70 new trees
that had been planted, and it got me
thinking,” Perkins said. “If we had a
complete inventory of the campus’s
trees, would that help in making
decisions about campus construction?
Could it help avoid problems with noise
pollution and urban heat island effect?”
Urban heat island effect happens when
a metropolitan area is significantly
warmer than its surrounding rural
areas due to human activities. Actions
such as planting more trees help
combat the problem as trees provide
canopy cover and mitigate the effects of
air pollution.
The topic of urban heat island effect
is becoming increasingly important
as cities across the world, including
Louisville, try to make decisions
about development.
Perkins’ interest in urban planning
had her thinking more and more
about the idea of a tree inventory
until it became more than a project
proposal for class; it became a
personal project she put into action.
Since September, Perkins has spent
hundreds of hours walking tree
to tree, documenting information
including the location and type of tree,
height, diameter, and any biological
or maintenance issues. The inventory
also includes information about how
close each tree is to other trees or
buildings, and how much shade it
With such an ambitious project,
Perkins luckily wasn’t the only
student interested in the work. Missi,
also a geoscience senior, began helping
Perkins last fall.
IU Southeast seniors Misty Perkins, left, and Rachel
Missi, right, help plant trees near the IU Southeast Lake.