Photo by Trevor Johnson'08
The gypsy moth infestation that plagued campus trees for several years has been brought under control, and no trees were lost as a direct result of the pests. In partnership with the Department of Natural Resources, the college sprayed a bacterially based insecticide several times to thwart the infestation, while campus tree enthusiasts, including students led by Professor of Biology Yaffa Grossman, wrapped tree trunks to block caterpillars from laying eggs in the canopy. While these efforts paid off, the drought of 2012 took its toll, according to Grossman. She says as many as 25 campus trees had to be cut down this fall because of damage from severe drought conditions.
The latest challenge to the campus forest is the emerald ash borer, which is feeding on signature ash trees lining College Street from Emerson to Clary. The college aims to save those trees by treating them with systemic insecticide starting this fall and continuing every two years. Caring for the ash trees is part of a larger preservation effort underway along the College Street residential corridor. These projects, which also include façade work to the buildings, are being funded by the Renewing the Historic Core module of Beloit’s Fast Forward campaign.
Besides providing a leafy backdrop to campus, Beloit’s trees are actually working hard. A study done last summer by Michelle Koenig’13, an environmental biology major, showed that the nearly 700 campus trees growing on the south half of campus are storing carbon—a lot of it—equal to the carbon dioxide that would be released in 990 round trip flights from Chicago to Beijing. As a Sustainability Fellow, Koenig mapped and measured the trees to gauge changes since the last extensive tree mapping project was completed in 1999 by Dick Newsome, professor emeritus of biology. Because of growth and new plantings, the overall biomass of the campus forest has increased during that time, though it diminished in a couple of pinpointed areas because of construction or tree loss due to disease or age.
Looking forward, Grossman hopes a comprehensive tree management program emerges, most likely out of a newly formed campus landscape committee. “I’d like to see us plant two new trees for every one we have to take down,” she says.