Displaying all posts with the community engagement tag.

CITY OF TREES Film Tells the Story of Greening Efforts in DC

Washington Parks & People Executive Director Steve Coleman speaks with residents of Ward 8 in Oxon Run Park, Washington, DC in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Washington Parks & People Executive Director Steve Coleman speaks with residents of Ward 8 in DC’s Run Park in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Editor’s Note: We believe storytelling is a powerful tool for sharing the importance of maintaining, protecting and growing our urban forests. At OpenTreeMap, we’ve seen firsthand how storytelling can be used to recruit volunteers, garner support and secure funding. In addition to helping you manage your trees and green infrastructure, maps can help you tell your organization’s story. This month we wanted to share with you how one new documentary film is also working to share the story of urban trees and the people that plant and care for them. The following post is written by Lance Kramer of Meridian Hill Pictures. 

As documentary storytellers, we use film to share underrepresented perspectives, build empathy for people different from ourselves, and facilitate conversations about the complexities of the human experience. Our latest film CITY OF TREES is a story that challenges audiences to think deeply about the triumphs and struggles in making a long-term social impact within an environmental nonprofit.

CITY OF TREES follows the stories of trainees and staff in a stimulus-funded green job-training program, Washington Parks & People’s DC Green Corps, designed to put unemployed people back to work by planting and caring for trees in underserved communities in Washington, DC. The film follows its central participants navigating difficult issues: attempting to make change within a low-income urban community; fighting institutional poverty with short-term, non-renewable grant resources; creating environmental justice where it has been absent for decades.

In the process, CITY OF TREES thrusts viewers into the inspiring but messy world of job training and the struggles change makers face in urban communities everyday.

DC Green Corps trainee Michael Samuels and his mother Eleanor Barnett share the story of Michael's incarceration in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

DC Green Corps trainee Michael Samuels and his mother Eleanor Barnett share the story of Michael’s incarceration in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Over the course of the five years we spent making CITY OF TREES, telling this kind of story required all parties — us as the filmmakers, the program staff and trainees, funders, and audiences — to embrace a certain unpredictability and complexity. Because our story centered on real people, we had to accept that any message about the impact of tree plantings or green job training would never be as tightly-crafted as a grant report or fundraising video. The goal of the film was not to solve unemployment or lack of canopy coverage in certain neighborhoods, but instead to explore the complexities that emerge when people with different backgrounds and perspectives work towards a common goal.

Stories that deepen public consciousness and promote productive discourse are increasingly important as cities become bigger and more diverse.

With nearly 50 screenings of CITY OF TREES at film festivals, conferences, nonprofits, universities, and public agencies last year, we saw how the film helped audiences develop a deeper understanding of the issues and possible solutions, and strengthen relationships with other stakeholders. At screenings we found that people have craved stories that seek deeper truths and raise hard questions.

Steve Coleman introduces a new cohort of DC Green Corps trainees in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Steve Coleman introduces a new cohort of DC Green Corps trainees in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

We hope that when people watch City of Trees they’re able to draw connections to experiences in their own lives and step into the shoes of someone who is different from themselves. We also hope that the courage displayed by the people who shared their stories in CITY OF TREES — particularly the staff and trainees of Washington Parks & People — will help make it easier for others in urban forestry and environmental justice fields to think about the potential to use authentic storytelling in their own work. To help with this effort, we recently released the CITY OF TREES discussion guide which was made with support from the U.S. Forest Service. The guide is designed to help nonprofits facilitate dialogues around the film’s central themes: environmental justice, workforce development, community engagement and returning citizens.

It is more important than ever for people from all backgrounds to come together to confront some of our country’s most pressing issues. We hope through watching the film people can better understand the complex factors facing urban communities and engage in conversations that lead to positive change.

DC Green Corps community liaison James Magruder conducts outreach in DC's Oxon Run Park in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

DC Green Corps community liaison James Magruder conducts outreach in DC’s Oxon Run Park in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Click here to find out how you can host a screening of CITY OF TREES. The film will also have its encore broadcast on PBS/WORLD Channel‘s America ReFramed on Tuesday, Jan. 17 in a lineup of films focused on the fights for income equality and racial justice.

For more information on accessing the discussion guide and Community Screening Kit, you can contact Lisa Allen at lisa@meridianhillpictures.comLance Kramer is the producer of CITY OF TREES and Executive Director of Meredian Hill Pictures.

Practical Methods for Reducing Urban Tree Mortality

2015_06_22_Street Foliage copy

Tree-lined streets like this one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania cannot be created overnight. Trees must be monitored closely to ensure their long-term survival.

We recently hosted a webinar on practical methods for increasing the annual survival rates of young trees, a topic that is critical to ensuring the longterm growth of our urban forests. Urban forests provide environmental, health, economic benefits that motivate tree-planting programs. However, realizing these ecosystem benefits depends on tree survival. Overall canopy levels in major cities have been declining, and tree planting and regeneration do not offset current losses.

Small, young trees typically have highest mortality rates. However, accurate mortality data is hard to come by and the data that does exist suggests over a quarter of trees planted die within first 5 to 9 years.[1]  The lack of available information on mortality rates and causes demonstrates the need for standardized tree monitoring protocol. Collecting and analyzing longitudinal tree data will take years, but to assist in data collection efforts the Urban Tree Growth and Longevity Working Group developed a minimum data set necessary for any urban tree monitoring project. This data set includes field crew information, tree species, location, site type, mortality status, condition rating, and diameter at breast height (DBH).

Technology can be used to support effective, long-term monitoring of urban trees and assist with tree planting and maintenance data processes. Azavea prepared a report titled “Data Management for Urban Tree Monitoring” for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and the USDA Forest Service on the requirements for ideal software monitoring system. The report is the culmination of over twenty interviews with researchers, practitioners from organizations throughout the US (federal agencies, academic researchers, municipal and nonprofit employees, volunteers, students). Included in the report are in-depth analyses of the software offerings currently on the market and whether they meet the features requirements that allow for successful monitoring.

Data-driven decisions can help you maximize limited resources and advocate for additional funding. Watch the video for more detail on the minimum data set and using technology to ensure the health of your urban forest.

Effective monitoring is not the only solution to increasing the mortality rates of young trees. TreePans, a family-run business based in Iowa, has designed a product that protect trees from mechanical damage and allows for more efficient watering. In the video below, Ben Brown of TreePans discusses the core functionality of the protect, how the implementation of TreePans at one university helped reduce mortality rates, and the importance of providing workers and community members alike with the requisite knowledge and resources for helping care for young trees.

Click here to sign up for future webinars, urban forestry news and product updates.

“Trees in Trouble” highlights what we can do to mitigate the effects of EAB

An arborist removing ash trees in Madison Park, Cincinnati.

An arborist removing ash trees in Madison Park, Cincinnati.

In the past few years more than 12,000 dead Ash trees have been cut down in Cincinnati on publicly-owned land. According to documentary filmmaker Andrea Torrice, Cincinnati almost went broke trying to keep the invasion from damaging property and endangering citizens. In describing the infestation, she said, “It seemed to happen overnight.” Unfortunately, Cincinnati is not unique. Since emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive Asian beetle, was first identified in 2002, communities all across the country have reported signs of EAB and face losing huge portions of their tree canopy. In total, it’s estimated EAB will kill between 50 to 100 million ash trees in the US and Canada.

A tree-lined street in Toledo, Ohio in 2006 before EAB arrived.

A tree-lined street in Toledo, Ohio in 2006 before EAB arrived.

The same tree-lined street in Toledo in 2008 after EAB had arrived.

The same tree-lined street in Toledo in 2008 after EAB had arrived.

The risk of emerald ash borer, however, is not just limited to canopy loss. The effects ripple through the ecosystem affecting other plants, animals and water supplies. Emerald ash borers eat tree bark and cut off access to the nutrients and water a tree needs to survive, and can kill an ash tree in as little as two years. Efforts aimed at reducing the spread of invasive species like EAB have proved costly for businesses that sell ash trees or wood products, property owners, and local and state governments alike.

We sat down with award-winning documentary filmmaker, Andrea Torrice to discuss her most recent film, Trees in Trouble. The film, which is set in Cincinnati, tells the story of America’s urban and community forests: their history, their importance to our health, economy and environment, and the threats they face today. Like many citizens, Torrice was not familiar with the spread of EAB and its impact on her neighborhood until she began to notice swaths of dead trees spray-painted for removal. Upon gaining a deeper understanding of the issue, she felt compelled to create a film that brought the issue to national attention. Torrice weaves together urban forestry history, public policy and science with personal stories to create a film designed to appeal to people of all ages.

Andrea Torrice, Producer and Director of "Trees in Trouble."

Andrea Torrice, Producer and Director of “Trees in Trouble.”

In addition to raising key questions about the challenges our forests face amidst climate change and the spread of invasive species, Trees in Trouble serves to educate citizens on the social, economic, environmental and health benefits trees provide. Throughout our conversation, Torrice was quick to highlight solutions communities can take to protect native trees such as increased monitoring and public awareness, all in an attempt to offer hope for the future. Torrice said, “Education about and awareness of EAB is a necessary first step in order to get citizens involved in the long-term preservation of our urban forests.” She encourages citizens to advocate for updated tree ordinances and to let their public officials know they support funding for the care and maintenance of our urban forests. At the same time, she acknowledges that local government cannot solve the problem alone.

Pleasant Ridge School in Cincinnati hosted a tree planted event in celebration of Arbor Day.

Pleasant Ridge School in Cincinnati hosted a tree planted event in celebration of Arbor Day.

In Cincinnati, for instance, a mandate requires the city to remove all infested ash trees on public land. The cost and scale of this removal project means the city can only afford to replant one tree for every three lost. Stories like this are not limited to Cincinnati, which is why Torrice believes the most successful initiatives to mitigate the effects of EAB are those that bring together multiple stakeholders.

The Taking Root initiative, which brought together 220 diverse organizations and partners across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, was started in response to the spread of EAB. The goal of the campaign is to address the current historic loss of our region’s tree canopy by planting trees, better managing local forests, promoting the benefits of healthy trees, and fostering a sense of stewardship among individuals and communities.

Citizens and scientists in Cincinnati learning about invasive pests.

Citizens and scientists in Cincinnati learning about invasive pests.

Ultimately, better management of our urban forests starts with a clear understanding of the trees in your inventory. Information on tree condition and biodiversity as well as ecosystem benefit calculations provide actionable insights for municipalities on where to focus finite resources, and can help local governments advocate for budget increases. Our urban canopy is a testament to the foresight and commitment of past generations, and without proper attention to the long-term care of trees we risk leaving future generations with substantially fewer trees.

Click here to see when Trees in Trouble is airing in your area.

Community Engagement in Action: A conversation with Greening of Detroit

We recently caught up with the Greening of Detroit to learn how they successfully plant, map and care for thousands of trees each year. In their early days of operation, the Greening planted five to ten trees per event. Over the past two decades, these small planting events have turned into a well-organized operation involving thousands of volunteers, many more thousands of trees and a team of dedicated staff. There are many facets to the Greening’s success, but we wanted to share our five key takeaways.

A strong municipal partnership

The Greening has developed a successful partnership with Detroit’s Forestry Department giving the organization the requisite permits and some financial assistance to fulfill their mission. When they were founded in 1989, the City of Detroit was losing hundreds of thousands of trees to Dutch elm disease, urban expansion and attrition. At the same time, budget cuts forced the city to allocate most of their urban forestry budget towards the removal of hazardous trees. With little money leftover for plantings, they turned to the support of local organizations.

What started as an informal agreement was formalized five years ago when the Greening secured a blanket permit to plant trees along the public right of way. Since then, they’ve been working closely with the City to identify and plant approved species in areas most affected by removal. By engaging volunteers, the Greening can avoid the high labor costs associated with planting and caring for trees to multiply the impact of their investment in urban forestry.

Attention to the details of the volunteer experience

From its inception, the Greening has been committed to providing folks from all walks of life a meaningful volunteer experience. Over the years, they’ve developed relationships with groups – from large corporations to Girl Scout troops – who all share a commitment to giving back to the community.  They take a systematic approach to communicating key information in advance and scheduling the volunteering event to maximize productivity so a lot of the work is done behind the scenes before the day even begins.

Source: The Greening of Detroit

Source: The Greening of Detroit

A commitment to stewardship

The organization is committed to the long-term health of the trees they plant. To reduce tree mortality, the Greening of Detroit cares for trees for the first three years following planting. During the summer, they employ high school students into their youth workforce development program, Green Corps, to water tens of thousand of trees, and maintain city parks and greenways. The 1,600 students that have been involved in the program since inception have also participated in workshops sponsored by the organization on topics like financial literacy, conflict resolution and resume writing.

Source: The Greening of Detroit.

Green Corps getting ready for a day tending to more than 12,000 trees planting by the organization. Source: The Greening of Detroit

Engagement at the local level

Through their Community Planting program, the Greening engages block clubs, schools, faith based and other non-profit organizations in planting events. OpenTreeMap makes it easy for the Greening to showcase the ecosystem benefits a community will garner after a planting event.  An interested group, in conjunction with Greening, works with other local organizations to garner support for plantings among residents. They solicit guidance from residents insofar as where to plant the trees and residents serve as volunteers for the event itself. Following the planting event, the community takes on the responsibility for watering, weeding and mulching the tree for at least three years.

A commitment to data collection

By collecting data on all aspects of their programming, the Greening can improve the volunteer experience and measure their impact. After an event, each volunteer completes a survey, which helps Greening understand which events had the highest satisfaction rates and why. With this information, they can estimate the number of volunteers needed based on trees being planted and better cater the event to the group of volunteers. Additionally, the Greening requires their growers tag trees with genus and species information, making it easier for volunteers to accurately map trees in the field using OpenTreeMap’s mobile application.

The Greening of Detroit has mapped over 15,000 trees on their OpenTreeMap.

The Greening of Detroit has mapped over 15,000 trees on their OpenTreeMap.

The Greening of Detroit didn’t always map their trees. For years, they used a database to track the addresses of plantings. A few years back, the Greening was looking for ways to better engage the community in their planting efforts and to educate citizens on the ecosystem benefits of trees. After researching different mapping solutions, they decided on OpenTreeMap. It was the only platform they found designed specifically for community engagement, and it’s intuitive user interface made training volunteers easy.  They geocoded their address-based inventory and used OpenTreeMap’s bulk uploader tool to add past tree plantings to their map. The Greening of Detroit has over 15,000 trees which equate to more than $85,000 in ecosystem benefits on their map.  

Think we missed a key component of a successful volunteer program? Interested in starting your own OpenTreeMap? We’d love to hear from you!

After Five Years We Completely Changed Our Pricing—Here’s Why.


Earlier this year, we launched a new “modular pricing” model—the change is significant for several reasons, and it’s worth explaining the observations that led us to totally revamp the way we sell OpenTreeMap. This new direction represents our strong commitment to making OpenTreeMap accessible and affordable for the folks who need it most.

Most Software as a Service (SaaS) companies like OpenTreeMap sell “plans” in monthly or yearly installments. At various points in our history we had between 3-5 plans—each successively more expensive plan came with more capacity for trees and more features. With our most popular plan, customers could upload up to 50,000 trees and could access premium features like our iOS and Android Mobile apps. For many companies, this pricing structure works. It is easy to understand and simple to implement. But at OpenTreeMap, we saw a fundamental problem: urban forestry initiatives can’t simply be boiled down to the number of trees in any given inventory. Every city, non-profit, university and consulting arborist has a different set of priorities and needs. Our pricing model could not accommodate the breadth of applications that our customers found for the software.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 9.03.41 AMTake, for instance, The Greening of Detroit. With a dedicated corps of interns and volunteers, they inventoried nearly 15,000 trees using OpenTreeMap’s mobile apps over the last year alone. The Greening of Detroit continues to be one of the most active and fast-growing tree maps in the country. With our former pricing plan, they had to pay for thousands of additional trees that they had not even mapped. Now, they only pay for the number of trees they need. They’ve been able to reallocate money formerly spent on unused tree capacity to get our Customization module. This way they can customize stewardship activities, user roles, and the mobile app configuration. Now they pay less than they used to and are able to get features previously only available to people with hundreds of thousands of trees.

It’s our sincere hope that the new pricing model will make OpenTreeMap attainable for those groups that have never had access to premium software for collecting, managing, and showcasing urban forest data. It is these groups that benefit most from OpenTreeMap. Small cities with 10,000 street trees and a dedicated group of volunteers now don’t have to pay $40,000 for a basic inventory—they can engage volunteers willing to collect the data instead. And non-profits with hundreds or thousands of trees planted each year can easily report on those plantings to donors and conduct survivability studies with just a few summer interns.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 9.07.48 AMWe’re proud to help clients like Augusta University, who can now afford to use OpenTreeMap to manage an inventory of several thousand trees without breaking their budget and Sustainable JC, who plotted their first several hundred trees in a single weekend. If you aren’t using software to better track and understand what’s happening to your trees, there has never been a better time to try OpenTreeMap. Get started with a 30 day free trial today: www.opentreemap.org/pricing/.

Recorded Webinar: NYC TreesCount! 2015

Coordinating a street tree census in the biggest city in the United States is exciting and challenging. Jacqueline Lu, the Director of Data Analytics at NYC Parks, discusses how NYC Parks developed and conducted TreesCount! 2015. Deborah Boyer from Azavea describes the software used to gather the data and how digital tools can assist with large-scale urban forestry data collection. We received a lot of great questions during the webinar and have compiled answers to some of the most common questions below. 

Is the TreesCount! 2015 software available for other municipalities?

TreesCount! is an open source project and the code is freely available at https://github.com/azavea/nyc-trees. Software development experience will be needed to set up the code, and the mapping process relies on the existence of a file of street block edges for your city or town. For groups without the technical capacity or budget to set up the code, OpenTreeMap may be another solution. OpenTreeMap is a cloud-based platform for helping groups map trees, track stewardship activities, and engage the community around caring for the urban forest. Although it does not include the event management features available in TreesCount!, it does support volunteer mapping as a citizen science initiative.

Why did NYC Parks conduct a volunteer-led tree inventory? Was TreesCount! more expensive than hiring an independent contractor?

NYC Parks’ goal was not simply to collect tree inventory data. From the project’s inception, they also focused on encouraging citizens to engage with the urban forest through the census. If the goal was to get data only, it likely would have been more cost effective to hire contractors to use satellite imagery to plot trees or complete an on-the-ground tree survey. NYC Parks’ focus on citizen engagement was central to the design and functioning of the software Azavea created for them.

Azavea team members volunteering with NYC TreesCount! 20145. Azavea team members volunteering with NYC TreesCount! 2015.

Are ecosystem benefits incorporated into the data?

The TreesCount! software does not calculate ecosystem benefits. After the 2005 census, NYC Parks’ ran the gathered inventory data through the U.S. Forest Service’s iTree Streets (formerly STRATUM) and they plan to complete a similar process with the 2015 data. The software platform for TreesCount! was focused on supporting Parks’ staff, individual volunteers, and partner organizations in their effort to inventory trees. The data was collected so that little manipulation is required for upload into iTree Streets and other analysis tools.

Were there areas that volunteers could not survey due to concerns about personal safety or data quality?

Before sending volunteers into the field, NYC Parks identified block edges where they thought there may be access issues or that would be challenging for volunteers to survey. Challenges included but were not limited to the location of the street, the direction of the street, and the existence of trees in a median. These areas were set aside for volunteers with advanced training or NYC Parks staff. There were also instances where expert surveyors visited a site and determined that the area was too dangerous to survey (example: trees located on a narrow median on a multi-lane street). The project excluded private streets, which fall outside the Parks’ jurisdiction.

How did NYC Parks encourage safety while mapping?

NYC Parks’ encouraged volunteers to map in pairs and groups, and all volunteers wore bright green vests designating them as a volunteer surveyor. Mapping events were often co-sponsored by partner organizations familiar with the area and were generally accessible via public transit.   

How did NYC Parks’ deal with naturally occurring or self-seeding trees?

TreesCount! 2015 was explicitly focused on mapping planted street trees located along street block edges. The surveying methodology worked well for single trees along streets and was not as well suited for gathering data on groups of trees that may appear due to natural regeneration.  

One of the thousands of blocks volunteers inventoried during TreesCount! 2015.

One of the thousands of blocks volunteers inventoried during TreesCount! 2015.

What does the NYC Parks define as a sign of stewardship?

A sign of stewardship is defined as evidence that a tree received tending or maintenance by someone. This can include tree guards, signs of proper pruning, flowers planted in the tree bed, and mulching. These categories of stewardship were taken from a study NYC Parks completed in 2006 on the effect of stewardship on tree growth and mortality. The study concluded that visible more signs of stewardship for a tree often resulted in greater longevity for that tree, especially when the tree was younger or newly planted.

How were volunteers trained?

Before mapping, all volunteers completed an online training and then received field training from NYC Parks staff or a partner organization. Training materials can be viewed online at https://treescount.nycgovparks.org/static/training/TreesCount2015Training.pdf

Recorded Webinar: Tracking Your Green Infrastructure

This week we hosted a webinar with TreeKIT on tracking and measuring the impact of green infrastructure with OpenTreeMap. As climates change and more regions face severe heat and drought, tracking green infrastructure is a necessary first step to measuring its impact and identifying the best locations for additional green infrastructure resources. With OpenTreeMap, you can increase public awareness of the value of green infrastructure and promote community stewardship. For users that provide local data and calculations, OpenTreeMap can also measure the money and water your green infrastructure saves each year.

As part of this webinar, we explored how:

  • OpenTreeMap can be used to gather and maintain data related to rain barrels, bioswales and other features
  • To increase public education of the benefits of green infrastructure
  • To promote installation and stewardship of green infrastructure

Click here for more information on the Green Infrastructure module and sign-up for your 30-day free trial today. You’ll find the full webinar recording below. We’ve also made the slides available on Slideshare. You can reach us at opentreemap@azavea.com with any questions. We hope you’ll join us for future webinars.


The Tree Inventory of the Future an Interview with an OpenTreeMap Project Lead


“OpenTreeMaps are collaborative, crowd-sourced projects where citizens help inventory urban trees, learn about the environmental benefits trees provide and explore nature in their city. Kelaine Ravdin, owner of Urban Ecos, has worked as the project lead on OpenTreeMap projects across California, including Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Kelaine’s work blends a deep understanding of urban forestry with current mapping and data tools.  [Leda Marritz] of Deeproot, a company that builds high-quality tree care and stormwater management tools, spoke to Kelaine about her experience using open data, working with cities, and what tree inventories of the future might look like.”

Read the interview and more about how OpenTreeMap is used in California.

Seedlings, Hackers, and Mobile Citizen Science: OpenTreeMap Community Events Year in Review

A standing-room-only crowd watches our “Hackers, Beer Geeks, and Arborly Love” presentation at the 2014 Partners in Community Forestry conference.

A standing-room-only crowd watches our “Hackers, Beer Geeks, and Arborly Love” presentation at the 2014 Partners in Community Forestry conference.

Every community forester knows how important events are in growing a thriving community. Whether it’s training classes, volunteer tree planting days, conferences, or even webinars, events are how community members bond and come together to achieve their goals. As we’re looking back over 2014, we thought it would be  useful to recap all the events OpenTreeMap was a part of this year to give you an idea on how you too can use OpenTreeMap to engage your community.

The largest OpenTreeMap to date, the City of Edmonton’s yegTreeMap, was launched earlier this year to coincide with a big event: Canadian Arbor Day! For over 50 years, Edmonton has been giving its 1st grade students free seedlings to plant at home, and this year they used their new OpenTreeMap to capitalize on this tradition and have community members contribute data and stories on the trees they were planting. The City of Edmonton performed a comprehensive promotion effort, including press, community events, tweeting, and blogging, which paid off in favorable press coverage and resulted in a map of over 267,000 trees.

Another very active OpenTreeMap, TreePeople’s TreeMapLA, also launched this year. Rather than one large event, TreePeople has been using the map in a series of smaller events throughout the year to support their programs, including a recurring “Thirsty Thursdays” theme pairing mapping of trees that need watering and stewardship in Los Angeles with a trip to the bar afterward for volunteers.

Civic Hackers at EcoCamp work on projects with environmental data.

Civic Hackers at EcoCamp work on projects with environmental data.

For Azavea’s part, we organized an event called “EcoCamp” this summer, a hackathon themed around sustainability and the environment. Hackathons are 1-2 day events themed around a particular issue or problem area, which bring together software developers, designers, and data analysts along with subject matter experts in the theme being addressed. Azavea has organized hackathons before, and they’re popular among Philadelphia’s civic-minded technology community. Since we’ve been working on OpenTreeMap (which is also civic hacker-friendly open source) and our other green stormwater infrastructure work for a while, we thought it was time for an environmentally-themed hackathon to convene both communities to work on shared problems. We had teams work on trash and sanitation data, parks data, urban agriculture, and more. Pairing tree enthusiasts with civic hackers and other communities through events like EcoCamp is an effective way to spread your mission and programming to a very diverse audience.

We also presented OpenTreeMap at a workshop at the Constructed Environment conference in October, focused on using crowdsourcing techniques to collect data about the environment and cities (page 34). The conference convenes researchers in the fields of architecture and the built environment from countries around the world each year. This year, it was hosted at the University of Pennsylvania, which allowed us to use the newly-redesigned PhillyTreeMap in an interactive tree-mapping workshop with attendees.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Partners in Community Forestry National Conference came in November. For the second time, we were honored to have our presentation proposal accepted at this fantastic event that attracts urban and community foresters and friends from across the US and beyond. Along with our partners Lee Mueller from the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (an active OpenTreeMap client) and Erica Smith Fichman from TreePhilly, our presentation “Hackers, Beer Geeks, and Arborly Love: Reaching Out to Unexpected Audiences in Urban Forestry” highlighted the power of events like EcoCamp, Brewer’s Grove, and the Arborly Love campaign to introduce and excite new people about community trees. We were thrilled with the standing-room only crowd during the presentation, which demonstrated how valuable out-of-the box public engagement ideas are to all of us. If you were unable to attend, Lee, Erica, and I reprised our conference talk for the third OpenTreeMap webinar of the year.

Want to learn more in-depth ideas about how OpenTreeMap can be used to engage your community? Our other recorded webinars are great resources. Our first webinar in 2014 covered how to get started with the then-brand-new OpenTreeMap Cloud (how far we’ve come!). Danny Carmichael from TreePeople in Los Angeles joined us for our second webinar, focused on mobile citizen science efforts and gathering data using the OpenTreeMap iPhone and Android apps. We post recordings and question-and-answers from each webinar on the OpenTreeMap Blog, as well as announcements of upcoming ones. Be sure to keep an eye out in 2015 or make sure you subscribe to receive bi-monthly OpenTreeMap’s updates by providing your email at the bottom of the OpenTreeMap website!

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