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Last modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012

IU researchers awarded funding to study neighborhood-level tree planting

Oct. 23, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A team of Indiana University Bloomington researchers will spend the next three years studying the effects of tree-planting programs in six cities with help from a $173,206 grant awarded by the U.S. Forest Service.

Jeff Vogt trains Youth Tree Team members

Researcher Jess Vogt (center, facing camera) trains Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc. Youth Tree Team members in data collection methods.

Print-Quality Photo

The National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Cost-Share grant was awarded to IU's Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change. The principal investigator is Burnell C. Fischer, clinical professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and co-director of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. Co-principal investigators for the grant are Ph.D. students Jessica M. Vogt, Sarah K. Mincey and Shannon Lea Watkins.

The grant, titled "Trees and People -- a Two-Way Street," will allow Fischer and his colleagues to expand urban forestry research they have been conducting in Indianapolis to include Detroit, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Des Moines, Iowa.

"This large-scale, holistic study will help us understand how people influence urban trees and also how trees influence people in urban settings," Fischer said. "We're deeply grateful to the U.S. Forest Service for funding this research."

The IU research proposal was one of three that were selected for funding, out of 60 applications, in a national competitive grant proposal.

The interdisciplinary, collaborative project will evaluate several tree-planting programs, assessing their direct effects on the survival and growth of urban trees and their indirect effects on the involvement of organizations and individuals. Researchers will collect data using mixed methods in the tradition of research on social-ecological systems. For example, they will inventory planted trees to gather data on environmental variables; and they will carry out surveys and interviews to measure effects on community engagement.

Results of the research will:

  • Improve knowledge of the impact of tree planting for researchers, urban foresters and urban tree-planting nonprofits
  • Help close the gap between knowledge and practice for community tree-planting organizations
  • Generate data for a national assessment of urban tree planting in the face of climate change
  • Inform best practices for volunteer tree planting and environmental stewardship

Partner organizations for the project include the Alliance for Community Trees and six community organizations: Greening of Detroit, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc., Forest ReLeaf of Missouri (St. Louis), Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (Philadelphia), Trees Atlanta and Trees Forever (Des Moines).

The Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change is a research center of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Indiana University Bloomington. It studies processes of change in forest environments as mediated by institutional arrangements, demographic factors and other major human driving forces.