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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Interactive ODU “Tree Trail” Grows Online

When Chad Peevy, Old Dominion's grounds superintendent, planted the University's "Tree Trail" three years ago, a related idea took root in his mind.

Peevy had a visitor's map drawn up to describe the location and type of all 30 trees designated as part of the trail that starts in front of Kaplan Orchid Conservatory, to the south of Webb Center.

But Peevy thought his brochure needed to branch out.

"I suspected a mobile-app version of the tree trail would speak more to students," Peevy said. "We played around with some technology since then. But it didn't quite hash out to where we could do anything."

That changed as of early August. Peevy, George McLeod, ODU's assistant director of geospatial and visualization systems, and alumni Ed and Linda Bradley combined forces to create a digital, interactive campus tree trail.

Employing "story map" software from the geographic information systems vendor ESRI, the interactive tool features an overview that pinpoints the location of every tree.

Thumbnail photos of each tree at the bottom of the page can be clicked to bring up the name as well as taxonomic and common information.

"It's a neat little piece of technology," McLeod said. "And you can expand this type of thing as much as your time and imagination will allow."

For starters, Peevy said he hopes to add seasonal photos of each tree. But even as is, he has another asset to add to Old Dominion's annual application for "Tree Campus USA" certification from the Arbor Day Foundation.

ODU has received that honor three years in a row for the diverse array of trees that beautify the University's urban environment and is one of only three Virginia schools to receive the designation.

The "Tree Campus USA" program recognizes colleges and universities for promoting and maintaining healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, ODU consistently meets the standards of environmental stewardship and sustainable campus forestry required by "Tree Campus USA," including:

Establishing a tree advisory committee;

Maintaining a campus tree-care plan with dedicated annual expenditures;

Holding Arbor Day observances;

And sponsoring service-learning projects for students.

Peevy praised McLeod for finding the right software at a convention and for bringing the map to life.

"George clearly saw that my concept for the tree trail would fit into this software," Peevy said. "Put the two together and we have this production."

McLeod added that the story map template could be used by a variety of people and departments around campus. For example, he noted the interactive map he recently helped develop for the White House Sea Level Rise Pilot Project that designates problematic flooding areas in Norfolk.

"The great thing is the technology evolves all the time," McLeod said. "Six months down the line, it's going to be better and we'll be able to put in even more content."

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