W&J Wins Tree Campus USA Contest, Awarded Arbor Day Grant

Created: April 20, 2015
Last Updated: July 4, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (April 17, 2015) — With the help of the Arbor Day Foundation and the Toyota corporation, the Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) campus will get a little greener this Arbor Day, when local students from Washington High School will join with W&J students to plant ginkgo trees behind U. Grant Miller Library.

W&J was selected by the general public in November 2014 as one of 10 winners in the 2014 Tree Campus USA® – Celebrate Arbor Day contest, sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota.  The contest encourages campuses to celebrate Arbor Day, and awards prizes to the top 10 colleges that receive the most votes for their spring 2015 Arbor Day celebration plans.

Each winning campus was awarded $500 toward the purchase of trees or tree-related materials, as well as 30 Tree Campus USA t-shirts, five Tree Campus USA yard signs and two Tree Campus USA banners. W&J was recertified for Tree Campus USA for 2014.

About 16 Washington High School students, under the direction of gifted support teacher Deborah Mainwaring, will assist 25 students from the W&J botany class in the tree planting project on April 24 from noon to 2 p.m. Information tables featuring local organizations, including Washington County Watershed Alliance and the Washington County Master Gardener Program, will be set up in the library parking lot. Community members are invited to witness the ceremonial tree planting.

Jim Mirage, Grounds Supervisor, Facility Services/GCA at the College, is the manager of the W&J Campus Arboretum and partnered with W&J Biology professor Jason Kilgore, Ph.D. in this project. The project itself is made possible by a grant the College received after winning the 2014 Tree Campus USA® – Celebrate Arbor Day contest.

Kilgore, who teaches the W&J botany class, said working with the local high school benefits all involved and furthers the mission of both schools.

“Our [W&J] students get to translate what they are learning in class about root and plant development into something with application, and they will learn it better by teaching it to others,” he said. “The high school students are better able to relate to, and enjoy, tree planting through this experience. They’re going to associate this day with enjoyment, tree planting and college, and these are all positive outcomes.”

The ginkgo trees and other planting materials were funded by the grant, with additional support from the College. They will replace three ash trees that were removed in January because they were dying of an emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation.

Although the ash trees are no longer standing, they did not go to waste. Sections were removed every two meters from all three trees to determine if the tree rings can show the year in which the trees began to respond to the EAB infestation, with both high school and W&J students expected to be involved in this research, Kilgore said.

And the new ginkgo trees won’t just be on campus for looks, either – they also were chosen for their ability to be a “teachable” tree.

“One of the goals of the W&J Campus Arboretum is to diversify the trees on campus,” said Kilgore, who serves as Curator of the Campus Arboretum. “As gymnosperms, ginkgoes are medium-sized trees that have not changed much over the last 250 million years and produce characteristic fan-shaped leaves that drop in the winter. They will fit quite well next to the library and will be useful for teaching. We don’t have ginkgoes anywhere else on campus.”

 

About the Arbor Day Foundation

The Arbor Day Foundation is a million-member, nonprofit conservation and education organization with the mission to inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. More information is available at arborday.org.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work.

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