Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

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Getting a Fresh START at Tyler Arboretum

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 6.47.56 PMBefore classes even began at Penn State Brandywine this fall, the campus provided an opportunity for incoming freshmen to “get rooted in service.” The Fresh START Day of Service, held on Friday, August 21, encouraged new students to have their first service opportunity through Penn State that would lay the foundation for them to continue service through their academic career and their lifetime.  Stephanie Jones, Associate Director of Student Affairs at Penn State Brandywine, stated, “Our hope is that, through Fresh START, new students will develop lifelong civic engagement and build leadership skills through service.”

And just where did these energetic and enthusiastic incoming freshmen get their Fresh START of service? – at Tyler Arboretum!

Stephanie worked with Julia Lo Ehrhardt, Tyler Arboretum’s Volunteer Coordinator, to offer indoor and outdoor volunteer opportunities.  Some students assisted the fall school program mailer (over 700 pieces of mail were prepared!) and helped prepare for the upcoming Butterfly Festival, while others who were more outdoor oriented and/or interested in ecology or conservation worked with Tyler’s horticulture department in invasive removal and clearing areas of weeks and unruly plants from the Chestnut Orchard to the Wister Rhododendron Garden.  I was able to pop in on the different groups and see some incredible hard work on such a warm day – with all students and Tyler staff with wide smiles on their faces!

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I think this post-event comment from Julia really summarizes what these volunteer efforts mean to Tyler Arboretum:

It is community support that helps Tyler to engage people in an outdoor setting that is joyous and beautiful while conserving our natural resources.  This wonderful outdoor space exists because people like you care enough to volunteer.

I encourage all K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and even other community groups and businesses to gather a group of people and all receive a Fresh START in “getting rooted in service” at Tyler Arboretum!


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Summer 2015 Horticulture intern Luqmaan Richard

“At first, I was the intern. Then I said, ‘I’m Tyler.’ In the end, I was one of them.”  —  Luq Richard, Horticulture Intern at Tyler Arboretum, March-July 2015

As a university professor, I’m always encouraging students to go out and get experience in their field through an internship. I have interviewed two of Tyler’s college interns in the past and written blog posts about their experiences (horticulture intern Emily Pennock and communications intern Jelsy Kravatz), so I’m aware of the amazing mentoring that takes place by the Tyler staff during an internship.

I recently sat down with Penn State Brandywine student Luqmaan Richard, who has just completed five months as an intern with Tyler Arboretum’s Horticulture Department. I had not met Luq before, and sometimes when I sit down with a student for the first time, he/she will hold back during a meeting. This certainly wasn’t the case with Luq! His energy and enthusiasm for talking about his experience at Tyler was a challenge for me to keep up with, and I hope I have done a good job capturing what Luq took away from the internship (when a student starts with “special” and “magical,” then you know you are in for a great conversation!).

Luq Richard, Penn State Brandywine student and Tyler Horticulture Intern, 2015

Luq Richard, Penn State Brandywine student and Tyler Horticulture Intern, 2015

Luq is pursuing a major in plant sciences at Penn State, but he likes to say that his passion for science and the outdoors came from growing up in the forest (and he is still growing up in the forest, where he receives a wisdom and appreciation for all life). Luq had gardening and landscaping experience in the past, but his time at Tyler Arboretum was his first true internship. And Luq was quick to point out that he did not “feel” like an intern for very long. He was able to wake up every day and know that he was going to do something fun, whether it be helping a staff member with an existing project, helping with the cross-pollination in the chestnut orchard, to working with the volunteers (who were “really fun”), to being able to take ownership of his own project. Luq embraced being part of the Tyler community, “working to contribute” and to “make something more beautiful.” Luq jokingly nicknamed his time at Tyler as the “Goldilocks Internship,” because it wasn’t just what he learned about plants, but also his interactions with the people at Tyler – “everyone’s heart was open, even on my last day… they are good people that every day helped me grow.”

I asked Luq if there was any particular project he worked on that he was most proud of, or any place in Tyler where he feels he left his mark. He said it would be the Itea plant, located on the path from the visitor’s center, on the right side across from the Storybook tree house. Luq said it was the time of Tyler at Twilight in June, and he knew this was a very important event for Tyler. As everyone on the staff was busy making the last-minute preparations, Luq saw this plant and knew it would be the last plant visitors see before turning the corner to head to the tent for TAT. He wanted the Itea to look really nice for the visitors that evening and on future visits, so he spent hours clipping the Itea to bring more life and energy into the plant. (looks great, Luq!) Be sure to take a look at the Itea on your next visit to Tyler and think of Luq!

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Luq really wanted me to emphasize to any students that might be reading this blog post that, “you will be respected and trusted as an equal, and not treated as an underling.” Luq is transitioning to getting ready for the fall semester, but he said, “if I had one more week, I would just keep working at Tyler Arboretum.” I’m going to keep an eye out for Luq at Tyler – I have a feeling I’ll be seeing him on the trails and volunteering at some of Tyler’s events!

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Ecosystem services provided by Tyler Arboretum’s historic tulip tree

(The following is a guest post by Penn State Brandywine undergraduate student researcher Ami Iannello)

Penn State Brandywine student researchers Ami, Erin and Ben (left to right).

Penn State Brandywine student researchers Ami, Erin and Ben (left to right).

Three students at Penn State Brandywine were given the opportunity to do a six-week engaged scholarship project at Tyler Arboretum. Students Erin Hawk, Ami Iannello, and Ben Coon have been visiting Tyler Arboretum weekly to collect data for their research project. Erin and Ami have been collecting measurements such as the height and circumference of the historic trees in the Painter Collection, while Ben has been taking photos of the same trees and collecting the GPS coordinates in order to work with generating a custom Google Map for the project. Erin and Ami have entered their measurement into a site called “PhillyTreeMap.” This site is a crowd-sourced database which utilizes the tree height and circumference from a measured tree and computes the “ecobenefits” and how many dollars per year a specific tree (example: energy conserved, stormwater filtered, etc.), is saving our community, just by simply being there.

It may be a little confusing as to what “measuring” the trees really means. To collect their data, Erin and Ami have been using numerous tools and techniques in order to communicate the most accurate information to their audience.

To measure the tree circumference, the girls identified where they would measure around the tree trunk at four feet six inches off of the ground. They then used a tape measure, being sure the tape measure stayed level around the trunk, to measure each tree circumference. For bumpy trees, Erin and Ami measured the narrowest point anywhere below the four feet six inches. For leaning trees, they measure the four feet six inches in a diagonal with the lean. Finally, with multi-trunk trees, the girls measured each trunk separately, being sure not to add the circumferences together.

Erin (left) and Ami (right) measuring around a tulip tree.

Erin (left) and Ami (right) measuring around a tulip tree.

To measure tree height, Erin and Ami had to take a different approach, because, of course, they could not simply use a tape measure for this portion of their project. The girls used a method described by Utah State University Extension with a yardstick in which they measured the distance from their eye to the tips of their fingers along a yardstick on themselves and made a line. Next, one of the girls walked backwards, however many feet, holding the yardstick straight with her line at the bottom of the tree until the yardstick was the height of the tree. With a rolling distance measuring wheel, the other girl started walking from the base of the tree to the heel of her partner in order to calculate the height. Erin and Ami preformed this task three times from multiple angles around the tree and took the average of the three numbers in order to record the most accurate height of each tree.


Erin lining up the yardstick with the height of the tree, while Ben documents the research process with photos.

Erin lining up the yardstick with the height of the tree, while Ben documents the research process with photos.

The historic tulip tree that we measured, with the ecohealth data presented in this blog post.

The historic tulip tree that we measured, with the ecobenefit data presented in this blog post.

Here is an example of one of the historic trees at Tyler Arboretum that was measured along the Scenic Loop and the “Yearly Ecosystem Services” in which it provides:

Yearly Ecosystem Services for the Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), as calculated by PhillyTreeMap

A part of the Historic Tree Collection at Tyler Arboretum

Carbon dioxide stored to date 7,683.9 lbs $25
Energy conserved 2,262.3 kwh/year $285
Carbon dioxide removed 674.2 lbs/year $2
Air quality improved 6.0 lbs/year $28
Stormwater filtered 6,213.3 gal/year $61


This information highlights that historic trees at Tyler Arboretum, such as this tulip tree, are not only beautiful to admire and historic in value, but all of Tyler’s trees have a positive impact on the environment and society around them.

We will be continuing to work on collecting our data, and we will share our results, along with Ben’s Google Map, at the end of the summer – stay tuned!


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Make Tyler Arboretum your next microadventure!

Many teachers and families are soon transitioning from a school year to summer schedule.  If your schedule is too packed to get that extended getaway to refresh and reconnect with the outdoors, why not make sure you can at least make time for a microadventure?

2012 National Geographic Adventurer Alastair Humphreys is credited with promoting the term “microadventure.”  Microadventures are affordable, local trips, what Alastair refers to as “short, perspective-shifting bursts of travel closer to home” (see NYT article).  These adventures might be a hike through a local state park you just never made the time to visit, or a stroll through a local city by moonlight, a canoe trip in a local river – however you want to define your adventure!

Penn State Brandywine finished with its spring semester in May, and the campus walking club decided to celebrate by spending a Friday afternoon lunch hour strolling along the Scenic Loop and through the Rhododendron Garden.  We had a WONDERFUL time not just escaping the office for an hour, but spending some time connecting with nature and with each other.  The new signage Tyler has been installing by the Painter Trees provided some informative historical information, and with each tree tagged and labeled, we could easily identify each of the trees we were looking at!

I recommend everyone kick off their summer with a microadventure at Tyler!  Why not take a microadventure with friends, family visiting from out-of-town, your co-workers, your neighbors, and anyone else that has a desire to explore the outdoors?

Members of Penn State Brandywine's walking club, spending their lunch hour strolling through Tyler Arboretum!

Members of Penn State Brandywine’s walking club, spending their lunch hour strolling through Tyler Arboretum!  Photo taken by S. Allinson.

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Promoting and protecting the historic Painter trees

There is no doubt that the winter season is in full swing, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the Tyler staff have gone in to hibernation!  There are so many winter-themed hikes and programs taking place (have you marked your calendar for the annual Pancake Breakfast on February 28th? (see Upcoming Events)), as well as improvements to the grounds.

For example, if you bundle up and take a quick stroll inside the fence, you will notice some exciting new educational signage near the historic Painter Trees.  Before, we had were the small blue markers on the trees that called our attention to the location of these trees.  These signs provide some additional information about the collection and its significance.

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Around three of the historic Painter Trees, you will see a fence constructed around the base.  The fencing is there to protect the root system of these valuable trees, to make sure the trees are preserved for visitors to enjoy for years to come.


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And the fencing does not prevent us from capturing some excellent photos of and with the trees.  Check out my “selfie with the sequoia,” taken while standing right next to the fence!


Showing my love for this State Champion Giant Sequoia with a selfie!

Showing my love for this State Champion Giant Sequoia with a selfie!




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A Case Study with Toilet Paper Roll Volunteers, Part 2



Left: One of the many festive outdoor decorations at Tyler Arboretum this season.  This snowflake was made of recycled plant labels/tags!

Earlier in the week, I posted Part 1 of this topic, where my campus conducted a paper roll collection drive for a recycled art project at Tyler Arboretum’s Winter Wonderland event on Saturday, December 6 (see blog post).  Today, I was able to see the transformation and clever outcome of all our efforts!  See this slideshow below for the stages of development of the ornament.

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But the Winter Wonderland event was much more than cardboard tubes and glitter!  There were hayrides (yes, even in the rain!).  One visitor shared with me that you haven’t seen Tyler Arboretum until you’ve seen it in the rain (and I agree!).  There were other craft activities, hot chocolate and cookies, and a beautiful sled for people in which people were having their photos taken.  Even Lachford Hall was open for historic tours.

And I could not help but attempt to complete the Reindeer Scavenger Hunt – the photos below document my success in finding all six of the wooden reindeer!  I look forward to more winter fun at Tyler Arboretum real soon.


If you missed Winter Wonderland event, not to worry – you can mark these other Tyler winter events on your calendar!

  • Family Night Hike, Saturday, January 10, 6:30PM – 8PM
  • Maple Surgaring Exploration, Saturday, January 31, 10AM – 11AM, or Sunday, February 1, 1PM – 2PM
  • Winter Nature Hike, Monday, February 16, 10AM – 11:30AM
  • Pancake Breakfast and Maple Sugaring Celebration, Saturday, February 28, 8AM – 1PM (Snow Date: March 7)

To view full details on these and other Tyler events, visit


A Case Study with Toilet Paper Roll Volunteers, Part 1

flowerTyler’s Volunteer Coordinator Julia Lo Ehrhardt sent out via email her Volunteer Newsletter in Late November with a simple request:

We need your toilet paper or paper towel rolls. Our programmers are dreaming up ways to engage children and they came up with this beautiful work of recycled art. Save us your rolls and bring them to the Visitor Center by December 1.

Included in the newsletter was a wonderful photo (displayed to the right) for volunteers to see an example of the clever art that kids will be making at Tyler’s programs, such as the upcoming Woodland Winter Wonderland event on December 6.  I knew that I had some toilet paper rolls that I hadn’t yet recycled, and I knew we would be emptying paper towel rolls with our baking for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I was ready to start my collection to donate to the cause!

But then I started thinking… certainly, I’m not the only person with empty cardboard rolls in the house.  Why not engage my fellow faculty and staff members where I work (Penn State Brandywine) to donate their “empties” from the holidays?  The students were already gone for Thanksgiving break, so it was difficult to get the word out to them.  But I quickly connected with Dr. Lynn Hartle, the coordinator of our campus Laboratory for Civic Engagement, and we decided to do a joint collection drive on campus between the Laboratory and the Environmental Inquiry Minor (an academic program I advise for).  Within minutes, I drafted a flyer (this is a PDF of the flyer), emailed the flyer to the entire campus, and kept my fingers crossed that by December 1st, we would have some rolls to donate.

The “buzz” that this collection drive generated was immediate.  I saw that others printed off the flyer and posted it on bulletin boards and office doors.  An announcement went up on the campus Facebook page and on Twitter:

One of the bags of rolls that came in - and there were many more!

One of the bags of rolls that came in – and there were many more!

And wow, did the rolls come rolling in!  We had a full lawn-and-leaf garbage bag filled with cardboard rolls, and then even more came in today.  I was so pleased to see and hear the enthusiasm from my co-workers for helping Tyler Arboretum.  One interesting side effect was the “visual” of just how many cardboard rolls we generate and go through in such a short time (a possible future environmental project for a student to investigate!).

So here is my take-home message to all volunteers and friends of Tyler – reach out to your family, your friends,  your co-workers, your schools, etc., and get them involved in helping Tyler Arboretum!  I don’t know anyone that has the time or the funds to help to the extent that he/she wishes, but by mobilizing our own little circles of family and friends with these types of collection drives, simple acts of kindness can make a big difference for Tyler (in this case, for the art/nature programs for children).

This makes me want to make some recycled art, too!  My next post, Part 2, will be a full description of what Tyler did with all of these toilet paper and paper towel rolls…



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