Center for Tree Science Projects

How do we detect whether a tree is ‘stressed’ or ‘vigorous’?  The Tree Observatory aims to decipher the secret language of trees so that we may interpret the physiological and reproductive status through the holistic examination of individual tree’s life history and growth.  

Exchange program between the US and China, bringing environmental education practitioners from across China to the Chicago region to explore and share ideas about how best to communicate the importance and value of the environment and research.

The diversity of trees from around the world in the Living Collections provides an ideal opportunity to compare species responses to climate.

Invasive Amynthas worms are invading otherwise earthworm-free soils of the northern US. This project evaluates the impacts they’ll have on forest soils and seedlings. 

Trees are removed from the Living Collections for various reasons, but just because a tree is no longer growing on the grounds, doesn’t mean we can’t still learn from it.

Not all forest soils are the same. This project is helping us understand whether differences in roots drive differences in soils. 

The number of species that can tolerate poor-quality of roadside soils is limited. Can we increase the diversity of trees that can thrive in this harsh environment and the ecosystem services provided by urban trees by matching soil amendments with tree traits?

Consistent, integrative ecological monitoring is essential to determine the health of the forest and the impacts of management.

Vacant lots make up a large proportion of urban land and are of interest to many stakeholder groups. Fast, inexpensive restoration techniques could be implemented in vacant lots and would be well suited to increasing green space. This project investigates the effects of several restoration techniques on the ecosystem services provided by soils in vacant urban lots.

Controlled burning is a common restoration technique in midwestern forests. This project examines its effects on soils, which are largely unknown, but can have significant impacts on tree growth and young tree establishment. 

We are assessing whether important seed and living collections have sufficiently sampled the wild diversity of tree species we are trying to protect. 

We are quantifying the number of plants and seeds needed to best preserve genetic variation of 10 species of threatened trees in botanical gardens, which  will be models for future seed collections.

We are using DNA data to further understand the reproductive biology of an under-studied oak, Quercus havardii, which will help inform seed collection strategies and collection management.

We collected acorns from across the range of Quercus havardii and distributed them to partner gardens to grow, research, and showcase this unique oak to the public.

We are using DNA data to better understand the connectivity and recent history of populations of Quercus havardii, a Western sand dune oak.

Midwestern forests are a “hot spot” for nitrogen deposition - a pervasive, and perhaps irreparable, anthropogenic global change phenomena. Could this be driving declines in oak regeneration across Chicagoland?

Linking science to practice to achieve effective conservation of oak diversity

Working with partners from multiple sectors in Latin America to research and protect threatened tree species, and advance tree conservation across the region

Living plant collections play an important role in conserving plant biodiversity.  We collect and cultivate threatened tree species to learn about and safeguard important sources of tree genetic diversity. 

This study investigates the effect of trunk injury severity on initial tree strength loss, and how trees respond to those injuries through adaptive growth.

Completing threat assessments for the world’s oak species to prioritize species for conservation and enable policymakers to protect threatened oaks.

Living plant collections play an important role in conserving plant biodiversity.  We collect and cultivate threatened tree species, like Quercus oglethorpensis (Oglethorpe oak), to learn about and safeguard important sources of tree genetic diversity. 

This  project works to determine how best to prune trees to improve resilience to damage from ice storms.

Oak conservation depends on our understanding of what species there are and how they will evolve in response to climate change. Understanding evolutionary history and gene flow is thus key to understanding oak diversity.

Bringing new, beautiful, and resilient tree and shrub varieties to market requires understanding how many sets of chromosomes species possess.  This project explores the poorly understood genome size and ploidy of the genus Styrax (snowbells), a respected but uncommonly cultivated group of trees and shrubs.

We would not expect a palm tree to grow in Chicago, or an upland oak tree to grow in a swamp.  Urban environments, especially below ground, can be just as foreign to any tree and must be managed to provide the basic requirements needed for good root growth.

Oak ecosystems are declining across the Midwest.  The Arboretum is undertaking research and restoration initiatives to find ways to combat these declines. 

Different paths to diversity: comparing two tropical tree groups with high species diversity but very different biologies through genomic comparisons.

Introduced diseases affect the health of our trees and shrubs, and breeders are always seeking to find new sources of resistance.

Genome size and ploidy surveys contribute to the growing body of scientific knowledge related to the plant kingdom and can be used by plant breeders to develop breeding objectives.

A breeding population with genetic diversity is necessary for developing new plants with novel characters.  Some plants can become weedy when introduced to a landscape, and reducing fertility can mitigate this effect.

Living collections are important repositories of biodiversity. Understanding the history of domestication in paperbark maple, which is endangered in its native habitat in China, can help us better conserve the species through targeted collection.

Polyploid induction is a method used by breeders to develop parents that can be used to create plants that are sterile, reblooming, or have improved aesthetics through interploidy hybridization.

The data collected on the urban forest in the Chicago region is the most extensive regional dataset on urban forestry in the country.  The combination of spatial, on-the-ground, and operations capacity data provides a broad foundation for education and outreach across the seven county Chicago region. 

Understanding evolutionary relationships and classification of Carex, one of the largest flowering plant groups of the northern hemisphere is key to conservation, restoration, and ecological study in the group.