damaged tree

From Tree to Database

 What’s so special about a tree?  Just ask Dickinson College’s Arborist, Mark Scott, who has been heading up an ongoing project to inventory all of the trees on the Dickinson College campus using GPS and GIS.  And there are a lot more trees on our small urban campus than you might think.  Just over a third of the way done, Mark has worked with both students from the GIS program and interns from the GIS Lab to measure the location and record attribute data for over 700 trees.  Mark and the GIS students use a mapping-grade Trimble GPS to plot the location of each tree and then record a variety of characteristics about the tree, such as species, height, diameter, and condition.  The Trimble GPS unit is preconfigured with a set of data forms and pull-down menus that contain selections for all the possible features that Mark would want to record for a tree, so that as the GPS records the location, all of the attribute information is automatically stored in the unit as part of the data record.  This makes the data collection process very efficient and much more accurate than simply writing notes on a piece of paper.

This is an ongoing project and as more data about the campus trees are recorded into the GIS, Mark hopes to eventually make the database accessible to any organization on campus who might find the information useful. 

For example, Facilities Management might use the data to facilitate its landscaping program; Advancement Services could identify trees of significant value that donors might wish to sponsor; or the Climate Action Task Force might find the data useful for computing carbon offsets in support of Dickinson’s Climate Action Plan.  Once completed, Mark also hopes to use the database to certify the Dickinson College campus as an official arboretum for the purposes of research, preservation, and education.  For more information please contact Mark Scott at scottm@dickinson.edu.


-Photo and map courtesy of Dickinson GIS Specialist James Ciarrocca