One with the trees

Environmental Sciences intern leaves positive impact

One with the trees

By Julie Carle

Cassie Eilerman knows trees, at least the trees in Bowling Green, Ohio.

The Bowling Green State University environmental sciences student has inventoried the city’s more than 8,400 trees that are planted in the public rights-of-way, parks and green spaces. Since November 2014 she has had an internship with the city’s arborist. 

She has been on every street in the city and logged tens of thousands tidbits of information about the trees. Her friends jokingly call her the "Tree Lady," but they also trust her to give them directions to any unknown location they want to go in Bowling Green. 

The internship started as a one-semester appointment and has morphed into 14 months and counting. Bowling Green City Arborist David Bienemann, who has recently left the position, hired and trained her for this massive project. She had assistance from students in the environmental sciences capstone class, but for the most part, Eilerman managed the project from start to finish. 

“Cassie brought a great deal of enthusiasm and professionalism to the internship,” Bienemann stated. “She understood the scope of the project and was never daunted by the details required to be gathered for each tree or by the outside work.”

With an average five minutes studying each tree, by the time she had completed the work she spent approximately 42,000 minutes or 700 hours looking at the trees and collecting the data. Her responsibilities include measuring the circumference of the trunks, identifying the tree’s conditions and the relation to the lawn around it, and recording the information in a database. 

While she wasn’t an expert, any time there was some question about the condition, she would share that information with Bienemann. She developed the ability to recognize the potential for diseases and how to identify them.

Eilerman, who is from Anna, Ohio, came to BGSU as a freshman with a declared major of environmental science. She grew up fishing with her grandpa at the family pond and became a devoted outdoor enthusiast. That interest was further stimulated by involvement in her high school’s Envirothon team. Dona Furrow, the high school health and physical education teacher and Eilerman’s archery coach, knew Eilerman’s interest in nature would be an asset to the team. 

The Envirothon tests students’ knowledge of soils, forestry, wildlife, aquatic ecology and environmental issues. The competition further sparked Eilerman’s interest in the environment and natural resources and prompted her to major in environmental science. 

Through her teacher’s efforts, Eilerman learned more about the environment during team field trips. “I learned so much; we walked through rivers, studied trees and visited Hocking Hills. Her passion for teaching us about the environment was contagious. It just clicked for me.”

Once enrolled at BGSU, she discovered the environmental sciences program was a perfect fit for her career goals. The faculty have provided a strong academic foundation and encouraged her efforts in the internship, she said.

Today, she admits her knowledge about trees has grown exponentially. She knows about the common-to-the-state Sycamore tree and is able to spot it from a distance. She also grew to love the London Plain Tree from the same family. Her affinity for trees made the internship with the city even more meaningful. 

Bienemann said Eilerman will help finish some related projects, including updating the map of trees, a visual product of her work.

“The internship has been a great experience for me. I’ve learned so much,” Eilerman said. “The best part is being able to see the value and benefit of all the city-owned trees.”