Our campus is covered in about 8,700 various specimens of trees, which are all accounted for and displayed in the Facilities Services Tree Inventory Community Viewer. Anyone can go online to find information about a particular tree on campus, from its height to its scientific name.
Founded in 2008, this vast collection has been a continuous work-in-progress to maintain the trees within our campus landscape. In 2015, UT Facilities Services (UTFS) hired its first campus arborist, Sam Adams, to professionally oversee the management of trees on campus.
“I’m really proud to be the arborist here,” Adams said. “It’s a unique opportunity to be the first of anything. It can be an awesome responsibility and exciting.”
Three to four years after hiring Adams, the inventory was completely updated as a result of a partnership with faculty and students in the UT Urban Forestry Program.
Now, the campus tree inventory is updated weekly by UT’s Arboriculture team. Such updates include tree health assessments, maintenance records, removal and new planting history.
The story behind the creation of the tree inventory is focused on the importance of the effects trees have on the environment, campus and community of Knoxville.
For starters, trees improve air quality, reduce the amount of generated energy needed, reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, reduce stormwater runoff and help stop climate change with their process of releasing oxygen into the environment.
Jason Cottrell, director of Landscape Services and Facilities Operations, said the university strongly believes all trees are a valuable resource to our campus and community.
“We consider trees to be an asset that are to be protected and maintained for decades allowing them the opportunity to benefit the lives of future generations,” Cottrell said.
Trees are such large contributors to our atmosphere that they have their own holiday. This event is known as Arbor Day, and it is celebrated on the first Friday of March. On campus, the day is dedicated to public tree-planting.
This holiday was last celebrated in 2019 — the fourth annual celebration commenced at the university — and ended with over 700 trees planted by around 250 volunteers.
In regards to the ongoing growth of the tree campus inventory, in April 2018, UT was recognized as a Tree Campus by the Nation Arbor Day Foundation. It is known as the biggest tree campus in Tennessee with multiple events that are centered around trees and their growth, held annually throughout the university’s campus.
The university was declared a tree campus not only because of the tree campus inventory, but the establishment of a Tree Campus Advisory Committee, tree-care plan, tree programs with dedicated annual expenditures, the observance of Arbor Day and service-learning project that incentivizes students to get involved.
There are many UT tree resources that are supported by the provisions of funding for campus sustainability and clean energy projects, known as the UT Student Green Fee. This includes the tree campus inventory, along with other resources and projects that promote the benefit of our trees on campus and achievement of environmental goals.
The Student Environmental Initiatives Committee, behind the development of the green fee, is always looking for more members that are dedicated to the care and growth of the campus’ trees and environment.
More information on specific trees on campus and their contribution to our environment and community can be found on the “live” virtual tree inventory viewer, the Facilities Services website and the Office of Sustainability website.