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Shepherd biology class measures benefits of trees to campus

ISSUED: 15 October 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University biology students taking the Plants and Humanity biology class spent part of the fall semester gathering data about trees on campus to calculate the benefits of those trees. Using tree location information from an inventory, students measured the size of the trunks and the distance from buildings and parking lots throughout East Campus. The data gathered give an understanding of the benefits trees provide.

“I really like the idea of this project,” said Maya Garcia, a biology major from Shepherdstown. “I think it is a great way for students to learn about how beneficial trees are especially during a climate crisis.”

Using a measuring tape, students calculated the Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) of the trees. This data was then put into a website called MyTree, which calculates benefits of the tree based on the DBH, starting with total benefits

“This is crucial to understanding what trees do for us and the surrounding environment,” said Dr. Courtney Campany, assistant professor of biology who teaches the class.

The larger the tree, the more CO2 it is able to absorb and convert into oxygen. Campany said MyTree shows the benefits of different gases, water, and energy that are stored and saved by the tree. The energy stored is based on the distance of the tree from a building. Trees provide shade for buildings which saves energy for heating and cooling.  Trees help take in greenhouse gases and store them to prevent further emission.

“I think it’s important to gain that knowledge,” said Lillie Perella, a business major from Thurmont, Maryland. “Since I’m not a biology major, I don’t hear about the environment or learn about climate change. Providing this information to everyone on campus will hopefully teach others about the benefit of trees.”

Students in the class placed a sign on almost every tree on East Campus with a list of benefits the trees provide.

Campany said giving trees a voice will help the campus community better understand the important role they play in the environment. Trees are fundamental to providing the air we breathe and maintaining cycles, such as the water cycle in which trees take water in through their roots and expel it into the atmosphere as vapor. He said the understanding of a tree’`1s value will help bring awareness to many changes across the globe and hopefully more advocacy.

The Plants and Humanity class teaches students the importance, structure, and function of plants and what each of those functions provide for humans.

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