Disease-Resistant Elms Planted for Ecosystem Study

Scientists from The Nature Conservancy and Loomis Chaffee students and faculty planted disease-resistant American elm trees on campus last week as part of a research project related to preserving the ecosystems of the Connecticut River floodplain.

Loomis students will help to monitor the trees’ health and collect data from the plantings as The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental protection organization, works to re-introduce elms to the floodplain. Dutch elm disease decimated native tree populations over the last century, disrupting the ecosystems they helped to sustain.

Three visitors from The Nature Conservancy, including lead scientist Christian Marks, visited campus on Wednesday, October 7, to plant trees and discuss the project with student environmental leaders, known as “e-proctors,” and teachers on the faculty of the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies, which oversees the school’s environmental sustainability and land use programs.

Following COVID-19 safety protocols, the students and scientists planted nine saplings in the Meadows not far from the river’s edge along the Joffray Trail. Afterwards, they canoed to a river island to plant an additional nine saplings. Data was collected from all the plantings for record-keeping and for future evaluation of the trees’ health. Loomis students will help the Nature Conservancy with data collection from the trees in the Meadows as they grow.    

“This project is a great opportunity for our students, both e-proctors and environmental science students, to work on a real-life ecological study … side-by-side with a team of scientists. It will be an exciting partnership,” said science teacher Gratia Lee, who directs land use programs as a member of the Alvord Center faculty.   

“This is just one of example of how we leverage our amazing 300-acre campus as a classroom,” said Alvord Center Director Marley Matlack.  “We have so much to learn about the local ecosystem, and with our expanded focus on land use, we are making that curriculum come to life.”

Connect to the Alvord Center webpage for more about global and environmental programs at Loomis Chaffee.

For more about The Nature Conservancy connect to the organization's website

Christian Marks of the Nature Conservancy