Current Presentations (Titles & Descriptions)

Presentation Descriptions

Joseph Murray
7 Acre Wood Farm
Bath County, Virginia 

(abbreviated) PermArboriculture: Opportunities for a New Partnership Between Permaculture and Arboriculture

Arborists are continually identifying homeowner practices that impact tree health. An understanding of basic permaculture practices (plant guilds, swales, vertical stacking, polyculture, edge effect, forest farming…) will help arborists assess if these practices are being conducted properly and are benefiting the trees. A dialogue between arborists and permaculturists should result in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship between these two plant-based disciplines.

PermArboriculture: Opportunities for a New Partnership Between Permaculture and Arboriculture

Everything changes. Homeowners. Landscapes. Homeowners’ expectations of their landscapes. As homeowners of the Baby Boom generation are replaced by succeeding generations, how will the arboriculture industry adjust? In addition to commercial arborists encountering permaculture inspired landscapes on private properties, municipal and utility arborists can expect to find similar landscapes springing up on public property and even in utility rights-of-way.

Modern arboriculture has been, and continues to be, influenced by practices from other disciplines, ranging from agriculture to rock climbing. Each newly-adopted practice undergoes modification making it more appropriate for the tree care industry. For example, broad-spectrum pesticide cover sprays changed to integrated pest management before eventually becoming Plant Health Care, an approach more suitable to tree care in urban landscapes. 

Permaculture is a relatively new approach to agriculture that emphasizes sustainability and self-sufficiency largely through detailed planning that mimics interconnectivity found in nature. Many younger homeowners, drawn by permaculture’s ethics (earth care, people care, fair share) and/or systems that claim to eliminate the need for pesticides and fertilizers, are experimenting with permaculture applications in their landscapes for not only small scale food production but with expectations of improving the health of their shade trees as well. A number of permaculture practices are being employed by arborists; indeed, some closely resemble established arboriculture best management practices.

Arborists are continually identifying homeowner practices that impact tree health in urban landscapes. An understanding of basic permaculture practices (plant guilds, swales, vertical stacking, polyculture, edge effect, forest farming…) will help arborists assess if these practices are being conducted properly and are benefiting the trees. Conversely, those practicing permaculture may benefit from arboricultural best management practices. A dialogue between arborists and permaculturists should result in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship between these two plant-based disciplines. 

PermArboriculture Handout (Resources)

Working With Nature To Restore Soil Health 

Learn to decrease your reliance on environmental subsidies and unsustainable soil care practices. By working with - and not against – nature, you’ll be able to hand over responsibility of soil management to soil organisms and bring the soil back to life. Even the simple act of mulching (with wood chips) can have a profound effect on improving soil health.  

It is generally accepted among tree care professionals that 80 to 90% of tree disorders can be attributed to problems below-ground. Prescribing typical “soil tests” only assesses chemical and physical properties of soil, leaving tree care providers unaware of soil biology. Armed with only the status of the soil’s chemical and physical properties, one generally falls back to traditional fertilization and soil modification practices. Should a pest or pathogen be suspected, then an assault is made with pesticides. These common practices - fertilization, soil modification, and pesticide application - are harmful to soil biology. To achieve a more sustainable approach to maintaining trees, might we employ measures that encourage, not discourage, soil biology? Practices that mimic the forest floor should be encouraged to reinvigorate natural processes below ground to support biology in soils. (Approximately 1 hour)

Handout (Resources)

Landscape Practices and Soil Health 
(for landscape maintenance crew members)
Tree roots face many challenges growing in urban landscapes. This presentation will examine turf’s harmful influence on trees; why wood chip mulch is superior to bark mulch; and why, in many situations, avoiding irrigation and fertilization may be in the best interest of trees. 
3 hours (2 hour lecture inside and 1 hour demonstration outside)

“Hey, tree expert! What’s that green stuff growing on my tree?” Lichen 101 for Arborists
How’s your ability to distinguish lichens that grow on tree trunks and branches from mosses and algae? A lichen is a mutualistic symbiotic relationship composed of two or more organisms (from up to three entirely different Kingdoms!). A mycobiont (fungus) makes up the majority of the “body” (thallus) of the lichen, while the photobiont (algae or photosynthetic bacteria, or both) typically resides inside the lichen’s thallus. Together, as a lichen, these organisms are able to live in environments where, individually, they would be unable to survive. Lichens play important roles in every terrestrial ecosystem on earth, including the urban ecosystem. With a brief biology lesson on lichen, you can change your client’s (and the public’s) skeptical disposition to one of understanding, acceptance, and even appreciation. But first, we need to educate the arborist. This presentation will explain the who, what, where, when and why of common lichens that grow on tree trunks and branches. (Approximately 1 hour)

How basic ecological principles can help arborists and property owners sustainably manage utility right-of-ways
The public, as well as many arborists, consider the singular purpose of utility arboriculture to be pruning and removing incompatible vegetation in utility right-of-ways. Few are aware that the Integrated Vegetation Management ANSI Standards also encourage the creation, promotion, and conservation of sustainable plant communities compatible with the intended use of right-of-ways. The diverse environments traversed by utility right-of-ways are matched only by the diverse expectations of external stakeholders, especially property owners. In forests, vegetation management in utility right-of-ways results in an extensive edge environment (two structurally different communities meet and integrate). These edge environments are more than resultant vegetation pushed back to an earlier successional stage. Edge environments, especially with abrupt boundaries (common to utility right-of- ways), face unique environmental factors with respect to moisture, temperature, wind flow and solar radiation, contributing to increased biodiversity (“edge effect”), greater than that found in adjoining plant communities. For over two years I’ve been employing cultural control methods to selectively manage compatible vegetation within a distribution right-of- way on a client’s property to achieve the objectives of both the utility vegetation manager and the property owner. Over two years of time-elapsed images of a distribution right-of- way will be used to illustrate the importance of site evaluation, within the context of ecological principles of edge environments, as part of an overall integrated vegetation management strategy.  
(Approximately 1 hour)

ROW Handout (Resources)

How We Hurt The Trees We Love: A Caregiver’s Dilemma

Trees are often doing fine until someone perceives the need to do something resulting in real anatomical and physiological tree disorders. True, there are a number of stress agents in the urban environment, but trees have evolved in tough environments for over 380 million years without our assistance. Perhaps it’s time for us to rollback on our preventative practices until we truly understand how trees do that thing that they do. In this presentation we will examine how trees deal with less than desirable growing situations and how being parsimonious with your “care” may be in the best interest of trees.
(Approximately 1 hour)

"Handout" (Resources)

Shared Biology: Discovering Your Inner Tree

What if trees were more like animals? More like pets? If trees could run up to our cars to greet us when we return from work, might we be more mindful of trees and provide them with more appropriate care? Naturally, this scenario presents a host of challenges for the trees - running, vision, memory, emotion. Nevertheless, if the reader will permit me the latitude to present information about tree and human biology in a nontraditional approach, perhaps we can evaluate our similarities and differences with trees with fresh eyes. Enlightened by this perspective and knowledge, we can provide to our customers more accurate comparisons between trees and people to help them make more informed decisions on proper tree care.

(Approximately 1 hour)

"Handout" (Resources)

Trees and Turf: An Antagonistic Relationship

Trees growing in lawns may look nice and, indeed, have become the norm for landscapes in the US, but this is not what nature intended. Sharing the same space, neither trees nor turf provide the maximum benefits proclaimed by their respective industries, at least not without the unsustainable practice of providing ecological subsidies. By better understanding their competitive strategies and roles in natural succession, arborists can speak more confidently about the necessity of keeping trees and turf apart. (Approximately 1 hour)

"Handout" (Resources)

Mulch: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Plants are mulched for a variety of reasons and usually with good intentions. Yet the practice of mulching is besieged with urban myths and misleading claims (termites, fire, disease and more). The new ANSI standards reaffirm the importance of mulching and make it clear that we should be mulching to improve tree health preferably with wood chips. Like pruning and fertilization, mulching must be performed only after objectives are established. Our industry is always changing and the simple act of mulching is no exception. This presentation will help bring arborists up to speed with the good, bad and ugly aspects of mulch.
(Approximately 1 hour)

"Handout" (Resources)

Trees Have Hormones... And Know How To Use Them!

Trees are large, long-living, complex organisms. Hormones help the different tree “parts” communicate. This presentation will focus on how the environment triggers tree physiology resulting in tree anatomy. Clients tend to only think about the tree’s anatomy and they usually have undefined objectives, unrealistic expectations, and a poor understanding of tree biology. It is up to the arborist to help the client develop objectives, predict the tree’s response, explain the limitations provided by applicable ANSI standards, and evangelize our mantra - right tree, right place. But do we really know what we think we know with respect to how trees use their hormones in response to such basic arboricultural practices as pruning and fertilizing? The public has the perception that we know as much about growing trees as farmers do about growing soybeans. The goal of this presentation is to re- examine what we thought we knew about hormones and to learn the latest of how tree hormones mediate the tree’s interactions with its environment.

(Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes)

Tree Biology through the Seasons

Trees are "miners." Tree roots mine the soil for mineral nutrients while leaves mine the atmosphere for carbon. Trees continue mining activities internally by accessing and sharing nutrients among the different parts of the tree. Understanding how two of the most important nutrients, carbon and nitrogen, are obtained and distributed through the tree is important not only for arborists involved in tree care, but also for the greater global community when caring for natural resources. Now, more than ever, arborists need to be biologically literate and able to explain what role trees can play in the sequestration of carbon and suggest environmentally sustainable strategies for supplying trees with nitrogen. This presentation will explore how carbon and nitrogen enter the tree and assimilate in different forms to be transported through the tree to perform specific functions. This presentation approach will also allow for the reexamination of such important physiological processes as photosynthesis, respiration, transpiration, translocation, and hormonal regulation from a unique perspective. The presentation will be divided into four parts to explore the physiology of carbon and nitrogen in each of the seasons. (Approximately 1 hour)

Conifer Tree Biology

Arborists routinely apply the same cultural treatments to conifers and flowering trees even though there are significant differences in their biology. This talk will explore the biology of conifers as well as their role in nature and urban landscapes. A better understanding of conifers will enable arborists to make more informed diagnoses and prescribe more effective treatments.

(Approximately 1 hour)

Managing Mother Nature's Graffiti: The Biology Behind Invasive Species

Unless a significant amount of money is spent and a heroic effort is made by nearly everyone in a community it is unlikely an invasive species such as the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) will be eradicated through mechanical and chemical means. It may be that invasive plant species are here to stay. If this is the case, perhaps it is time to change our focus from eradication to management. As arborists, we have been teaching “right tree, right place” for years now. The message is still applicable for the management of invasive tree species. Arborists can encourage others in the green industry to participate in voluntary initiatives to decrease the introduction and spread of invasive tree species. It will be a challenge to educate the public about the importance of recognizing and removing invasive tree species, especially, since we have been identified as “tree huggers” for many years. However, if we truly identify ourselves as part of the green industry and care takers of the environment then we need to do the right thing.
(Approximately 45 minutes)

Climate Change and Tree Biology

Trees have been dealing with gradual climate change for millions of years. However, climatologists state that a significant warming trend is occurring over a relatively short period of time. Along with increasing temperatures, trees will be experiencing increasing episodes of dramatic temperature fluctuations. A basic understanding of how tree biology is impacted by temperature fluctuations will help in the development of strategies to reduce damage and to better diagnose temperature related disorders.

(Approximately 1 hour)

What Trees Expect of Soil

When did the public become so ignorant about soil? This presentation will look at the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil from the perspective of a tree as well as some simple and inexpensive diagnostic soil tests.
(Approximately 1 hour)

Trees & Crime Prevention

Looking for an opportunity to expand your list of services? Crime prevention specialists across the United States are receiving training in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Attend this presentation to learn what your role will be when your community’s police department, city planners, property managers, and homeowners attempt to implement CPTED.
(Approximately 1 hour)