Marquette brings nature to urban environment

The Wisconsin Native Tree Collection has labeled the 26 different species of native trees on Marquette's campus.

City buses honk and rumble, airplanes soar overhead and the faint scent of Milwaukee’s industrial valley lingers in the air. Marquette’s campus isn’t exactly an escape to nature.

But those involved with the Wisconsin Native Tree Collection at Marquette hope to prove that it can be.

Students for an Environmentally Active Campus have been working with Gail Schumann, an adjunct professor of biological sciences, and the Office of the University Architect for the past two years to bring more trees to the school’s landscape. Their goal is to beautify campus, raise awareness about environmental issues and encourage self-guided tours of the campus tree population.

Currently, there are 26 varieties of trees and shrubbery native to the state of Wisconsin planted throughout the campus landscape. SEAC and Schumann hope to eventually have each of the remaining species represented.

“Do we really want a campus that’s all asphalt and concrete?” Schumann said. “Trees are wonderful.”

The late Rev. Harold C. Bradley began tree beautification efforts in the fall of 2008 with plantings of red maples in the median on Wisconsin Avenue. Red maples are not native to Wisconsin, but Bradley’s interest in adding more trees to Marquette’s landscape eventually led to a meeting with Schumann. With her background in biology – she teaches a course titled “Plants, Pathogens and People” – Schumann suggested that all new trees should be species native to the Badger State.

“Campus is covered with Norway maples. We do not have a single sugar maple – the state tree,” Schumann said.

She spent a year surveying campus, tallying the number and condition of trees.

Schumann and Beth Wilson, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and a SEAC member, met with university administrators monthly to develop the native tree initiative. Due to Marquette’s congested landscape and the expense of planting new trees, the group concluded that native trees would be added in conjunction with the school’s new building projects.

Six species of trees – ironwood, shagbark hickory, larch, musclewood, witch hazel and American beech – were planted during the construction of Zilber Hall, Wilson said.

She said new trees are planned for areas around the Discovery Learning Complex and Eckstein Hall. Tom Ganey, university architect, has promised to include native plantings with all future construction projects, she said.

For now, all native Wisconsin trees have been marked with a tag and mapped on a brochure created by Nick Schroeder, a senior graphic designer in the Office of Marketing and Communication. The brochure is available at the Alumni Memorial Union information desk and in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

On April 9, during Marquette’s Green Week, a group of about 25 students and faculty participated in an inaugural “tree walk,” Wilson said.

SEAC and Schumann hope their work will allow school groups, students and community members to enjoy self-guided tours.

Ali Clark, a member of SEAC and a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she has been passionate about the environment since high school.

She said the university can save money by planting native trees, which are better suited to the rough Wisconsin winters. Furthermore, the tree tours can help build awareness about the environment.

Wilson said having green space in the city is important.

“If you walk by a tree and it has a tag, you’ll stop to read it,” Wilson said.