stone statue surrounded by green grass and trees

March 01, 2021

SIU earns Tree Campus Higher Education honors for a sixth straight year

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale has earned national recognition as a 2020 Tree Campus Higher Education program, the sixth consecutive year the Arbor Day Foundation has honored the university for its commitment to effective forest management.

“Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and having to make adjustments in the way we are doing some things, we’re proud that we continue to meet the sustainable campus standards,” Dave Tippy, superintendent of grounds, said. “We are still striving to improve the overall tree canopy on the SIU campus.”

One of select group

SIU is one of just 403 campuses across the country chosen for the Tree Campus Higher Education program, an honor previously called Tree Campus USA.

In order to earn the designation, SIU had to meet five campus sustainability standards including:

  • Establishing a tree advisory committee.
  • Creating a campus tree care plan.
  • Sustaining a campus tree program.
  • Having some type of Arbor Day observance annually (although in 2020 lenience was given due to the pandemic.)
  • Sponsoring student service learning projects.

Making it happen in a pandemic

Usually, about 150 grade school students from around the region enjoy a guided tree walk around SIU, where they learn about the QR tree coding identification system, learn to identify various trees and participate in nature activities courtesy of the Tree Campus Advisory committeePlant and Service Operations grounds department and the SIU Forestry Club.

The tree walk wasn’t feasible in the midst of the pandemic so campus officials created a new online program with a much more extensive outreach. Now, anyone can see and learn more about SIU’s extensive variety of trees by viewing a Virtual Tree Tour and a 360 Degree Virtual Tree Tour.

Trees vital to campus culture

SIU has more than 5,300 inventoried trees, including over 160 different species, just on the main campus. The SIU Arboretum also offers six self-guided tree identification tours – which can be seen virtually or enjoyed as walking tours. You can view the names and photos of the trees along with numerous other details about their bark, fruit, leaves and more. In addition, there are thousands of additional non-inventoried trees in the wooded areas around Campus Lake, Thompson Woods and auxiliary properties including the Touch of Nature Environmental Center and the farms. SIU is the first university in Illinois to earn Level II Arboretum Accreditation from the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program and is featured in the Morton Register of Arboreta, the only global initiative that officially recognizes arboreta for development, capacity and professionalism.

Looking toward the future

The campus-wide collaborative commitment to sustainability education, community outreach and environmental stewardship is ongoing, according to Tippy.

“We’re evaluating how to handle things this year as far as having events or activities that engage the campus community and public in the spirit of our tree campus and conservation. We may need to make adjustments to comply with state and campus safety standards but we are committed to continuing our tradition of outreach programming,” Tippy said.

Learn more about the Tree Campus initiative online or by contacting Tippy at 618-453-8179 or Elizabeth Cheek at 618-453-8185.