Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Meet the Management - An Interview with Facilities and an Inside Look at the Writing Process

Since the Natural Treasure Blog was started, Nicole and I have drawn ideas for articles from personal interests, suggestions from friends, and topics discussed in various EBE courses. By no means are we experts and when questions arise from being unable to explain a certain natural phenomena or identify a species, we turn to the experts. Most of the time, professors and other faculty have been excellent sources of information, as well as various field guides that we checked out from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography Library. Once in a while though, we hit a few hitches with plant IDs-- the biggest example being the Bunya Pine that for months, we simply called "Dr. Seuss" tree until an answer could be found.

In February, Nicole and I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Charles Morgan (Custodial and Landscape Services Assistant Director) and Sam Oludunfe (Tree Services and East Campus Maintenance Manager), two very knowledgeable members of the UCSD Facilities Management team. Chuck and Sam took some time out of their busy schedules to sit down with us and answer a few of the burning questions that we had developed over the last few months of exploring UCSD.

Between the two of them, they possess over 30 years of experience with the layout on the UCSD campus, as well two certifications from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) as Certified Arborists. Chuck and Sam have seen extraordinary changes happen as our university grew and evolved. What truly amazed us was their expertise and knowledge regarding the literally hundreds of plant species found on campus. When asked to identify certain plants in different areas, they were able to identify the plant by location and by both common name and the scientific Latin name. And trust me, when you're dealing with a list that contains more than 150 different species of just trees... this is a spectacular feat of brainpower and passion for the natural environment.

We asked Chuck and Sam about various trees and physical features that have come and gone on the UCSD campus over the years, their concerns about particular developments, as well as what direction they would like to see landscaping move in the coming years.


NT: Is there significance to some of the different trees that grow around campus?
MGMT: Certain trees have been planted down certain roads to signify different areas. For example, Torrey Pines are planted at main entrances to the school, since they are a special pine that is endemic to San Diego and only a few other parts of California. In the Chancellor's Complex, the New Zealand Christmas Tree is a centerpiece of sorts, like a soapbox for people to pay attention to. We've installed chicken wire stands with Spanish moss to assist the aerial roots get more moisture. In the future, we'd like to see this tree protected as an official landmark on campus.

NT: What are some of the biggest changes that you've seen happen to the campus since you began working here?
MGMT: There are tons! In the area of ERC by the Supercomputer, there was once a mile-high field where RIMAC is now. Over in Sixth College, the canyon has shrunk over time to make space for additional buildings, such as the Sixth Res Halls and Apartments. This is one of the trade-offs with land that UCSD engages in-- you give some and you take some, but with enough money, people can essentially build anywhere.

NT: Have you noticed the arrival or disappearance of any particular animal species around campus?
MGMT: There are all of the usual suspects-- rabbits, raccoons, snakes, rats, mice, coyotes... before the facilities complex was built actually, we used to see a bobcat wandering around by the canyon. In recent years, it hasn't been sighted so we presume it got scared off when construction began. This campus, specifically by the Grove Cafe, used to be in the migration path of Monarch Butterflies heading south to Mexico. Recently, less and less Monarchs show up each year, probably as a result of the way our climate has shifted and affected both their phenology and the availability of their food source here.

NT: Do you have any concerns about the direction that landscape development has been going in?
MGMT: After watching UCSD expand in the last quarter century, I think there is reason to be concerned about the potential for landscape impact that already exists as a result of recently built and prospective building projects. We'd like to see the campus strive for more environmentally-friendly practices in both management and use.

NT: Do you have any suggestions for these more environmentally-friendly practices that you mentioned?
MGMT:  Our campus is already saving more money through more green irrigation practices-- we use 33% less water by changing the sprinkler heads to a different type that only sprays as much as is needed. In a chaparral biome like ours, the native plants don't need as much water as we usually think plants do. I'd like to see more native plant gardens put in around campus-- sustainability is a very key issue and having more gardens like these would help to counteract the "heat island" that is created by all of the sprawling concrete that covers the campus. Unfortunately, this is still a very research-oriented university and not enough time has been spent considering how the landscape can help reduce our carbon footprint.

NT: Is there a message you'd like to express to our readers?
MGMT: We hope that people see more need and use for plants, if not for aesthetic purposes, then definitely as practical factors in our landscape. Currently, there is such a "throw-away" mentality about the plants around campus and in 7-10 years, we're going to need to start refreshing and refurbishing the landscape. Rather than throwing things away, it would be wonderful to see more maintenance and preservation.

Thank you again to Chuck and Sam for their time, expertise, and many great stories about their experience with UCSD's natural history. If you have any additional questions that we did not cover in our Q&A session (the campus is a big place-- questions may be aplenty!), Chuck and Sam can be contacted by e-mail and would be happy to answer your UCSD urban forest-related questions.

Charles Morgan (Custodial and Landscape Services):

Sam Oludunfe (Tree Maintenance and Urban Forestry):

Click here to view the UCSD Urban Forest Management Plan (2009), a valuable resource if you would like to research the trees currently planted on campus (jump to page 53 for the full list) as well as current management strategies for our campus' natural environment.

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