Interwoven into the campus landscape, among the daily activities of students and employees and the memories of proud alumni, are the more than 10,000 trees across Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.
Like Hokie Stone-clad buildings, the campus trees are enduring symbols of pride for the university community — steadfast, scenic, and integral to sustainability.
Virginia Tech is deepening its efforts around tree preservation and sustainability through the recent hiring of university arborist Jamie King.
In the new role housed within the Facilities Department, King will be responsible for overall planting, health care, safety and general maintenance of the trees on campus. He will manage the campus tree inventory, which identifies and includes photographs of each of the trees on campus.
King will leverage his technical expertise to explore new tree-planting locations and conduct tree health and risk assessments. He will work closely with many departments and teams on- and off-campus, including the Office of Sustainability, the Office of University Planning, the University Arboretum Committee and the Town of Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech already has a strong tree culture in place, recognized by its Tree Campus USA status. Among the contributors to this culture are the existence of the Arboretum Committee, the implementation of a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures toward trees and ongoing student engagement activities around trees and tree plantings.
King is an alumnus of Virginia Tech, with a B.A. in natural resource conservation and minors in urban forestry and forestry. Previously, King worked as the arborist for the City of Roanoke for more than seven years. In that role, he managed the health and risk of more than 35,000 trees, executed planning and organizational activities and engaged with customers.
When asked what he is most excited about in his new role, King said, “I am looking forward to building the university arborist program from the ground up and having the opportunity to engage with a variety of campus and community stakeholders and students. Even more, I am excited to return home to Virginia Tech as a proud alumnus.”
One collaborator will be Associate Professor Eric Wiseman in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation within the College of Natural Resources and Environment. The two have known each other for more than 10 years; King was a former undergraduate student of Wiseman’s at Virginia Tech.
With the new arborist on the team, Wiseman sees future engagement opportunities between students and King that will help open up the campus as a living-learning laboratory, one where students can gain hands-on experiences in urban forestry.
“We’re thrilled the university now has a dedicated staff member ensuring the longevity and abundance of trees on campus,” Wiseman said. “In working alongside Jamie, students will be able to gain practical skills around tree inventory, planting, pruning and more.”
Jack Rosenberger, campus landscape architect at Virginia Tech, is also excited to have an arborist on board. He noted how King’s expertise will be helpful in guiding capital construction project planning and long-term strategic planting efforts highlighted throughout Beyond Boundaries 2047: The Campus Plan.
This will be especially important as the university introduces the Green Links included in the master plan. These are pedestrian-friendly, fully accessible routes that integrate landscaping and other environmental elements to further promote campus mobility between districts.
Virginia Tech strives to serve as a model for sustainable communities, and sustainability on campus will be enhanced with the addition of the university arborist.
For example, King will investigate new strategies for extending the campus tree canopy. Planting more trees and increasing tree cover will lessen the heat-island effect on campus, reducing the amount of energy needed to cool buildings.
Wiseman and Rosenberger both noted how the arborist position has been a long time coming, with interest dating all the way back to 2005.