TTU's Douglas Airhart awarded federal grant to aid in educating public about urban forestry

Trees are more than decorative objects, says one Tennessee Tech University professor who plans to use modern technology to teach the public about a very ancient task Ð the care of trees.

But getting this word out to the general public isn't always easy. However, a new grant recently received by Douglas Airhart, professor in Tennessee Tech University's School of Agriculture, should make the message more accessible to everyone. The grant was awarded through the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council and the USDA Forest Service's Urban Forestry Program.

Airhart was awarded $157,508 (with 50 percent matching from TTU) to develop, produce and distribute nationally a series of tutorial electronic media programs with information and training examples about basic urban tree planting and long-term care techniques. This includes World Wide Web page formats with national links, videos and videodisks suitable for television and/or cable programming, and compact disks and zip disks for computer assisted learning, Airhart explained. The programs will be geared toward training tree service practitioners, municipalities and Master Gardeners in training.

"The main message of the program is that trees are valuable assets in the urban and residential landscape, but that specific selection, planting and maintenance techniques are needed to ensure successful growing," Airhart said. "Although most of the techniques are simple, they are not well known in the tree service industry because they are relatively new. Unfortunately, this means that earlier references and recommendations (such as in textbooks and other guides) are out of date."

Airhart and area forester Guy Zimmerman, with local PBS station WCTE-TV, produced a series of videos "TLC for Trees" which aired in 1997. Duplication of these videos for mass distribution as part of the grant will be made in the School of Agriculture, at the Media Center and the Educational Technology Center. Lauren Neal in Information Technology Services and Billy Tindall in the Educational Technology Center are now in the process of developing web site information and streaming videos that will demonstrate such things as how deep to plant certain kinds of trees as well as making available the videos on the Internet.

"Urban forests are key to our quality of life by shading homes, providing wildlife habitats as well as reducing storm water runoff," he said. "It is my hope that these new educational resources will help maintain this quality of life."
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