For undergraduate students, an internship in tree-hugging

Alyssa Straits and Hulliams Kamlem, interns for office of sustainability. Photo: Timothy Nguyen (click on image for larger file size)

Alyssa Straits and Hulliams Kamlem are measuring some of UIC’s 5,300 trees for their summer internship in sustainability. Photo: Timothy Nguyen/UIC News

Spending seven-and-a-half hours outdoors, measuring trees, seems like an unlikely internship.

But for Alyssa Straits, an undergraduate intern in the Office of Sustainability, it’s really fun.

“It’s cool because I don’t think people think about trees when they think about urban areas,” said Straits, a sophomore in engineering. “When we’re out measuring trees, people come up to us and ask what we’re doing. They don’t realize how much trees do, or that UIC even takes care of trees.”

Straits and fellow intern Hulliams Kamlem are recording tree measurements for UIC’s tree inventory, a project affiliated with Tree Campus USA. The Arbor Day Foundation named UIC a Tree Campus USA in 2012, in recognition of the 5,300 trees growing on campus.

The two students note each tree’s height, diameter at breast height and crown spread. The measurements are recorded in i-Tree, an app used to map trees on campus.

Photo: Timothy Nguyen

Tools for tree inventory. Photo: Timothy Nguyen/UIC News

“We walk around campus and see them, but we never really think about trees and how important they are, and how pretty they are,” said Kamlem, a senior in public health. “Now I have a favorite tree (a catalpa, located behind Grant Hall).

“That wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t do this internship.”

The Office of Sustainability’s 10-week internships started June 2, with students working on different projects throughout the campus.

“It’s important to have cross-collaboration, and sustainability is a part of everything we do on campus,” said Shelby Egan, interim outreach coordinator in the Office of Sustainability.

“Sustainability is everybody’s job,” Straits said.