By Canopy Team on September 4, 2020
Veronica Weber is a graduate student pursuing her master’s degree in environmental science and management at the Bren School at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Now entering her second-year, Veronica is specializing in Energy and Climate and Strategic Environmental Communication for her degree. Veronica is particularly interested in developing climate change adaptation strategies within urban areas and natural resources.
During her remote internship with Canopy this past Summer, Veronica was tasked with designing a new self-guided tree walk accessible on mobile devices.
Neighborhood Tree Walks are one of Canopy’s original and longest-lived programs. During COVID, monthly arborist-led walks have been suspended. Canopy’s Education Team has focused instead on creating a mobile-friendly app that residents can use to explore trees on their own (though the classic brochures are still available for anyone choosing to walk screen-free!)
The new mobile tree walk site created by Veronica and team features two pilot versions of the Palo Verde tree walk in Palo Alto and Pioneer Memorial Park in Mountain View. When taking the self-guided tour, users can identify over 20 trees in their neighborhoods, learn about the care and maintenance of these trees, watch informative videos by arborist Ellyn Shea, and discover the ecosystem benefits these trees provide in local neighborhoods.
Developing a mobile platform for tree walks presented many fun and interesting challenges. One of Veronica’s most rewarding experiences of the project was the creative challenge of building a self-guided tour from scratch. Throughout the project, she met regularly with the mobile tree walk committee, comprised of Canopy Education Director Natalie Brubaker and Board Member Maria Chai to discuss the overall vision, accessibility, and necessary features to include.
One of the biggest challenges was the trial and error in designing the walk’s features which didn’t always work out as the team envisioned.
After considering many options, Veronica and the team chose to use StoryMaps, a product created by ESRI ArcGIS. Veronica loves the way the platform embeds maps for easy navigation and has interactive features including a media viewer which she hopes will encourage users to explore the diverse beauty of trees and the urban canopy.
Veronica also thoroughly enjoyed learning about trees featured on the walk; particularly the ecosystem benefits they provide in offsetting energy demands and carbon sequestration. And even though she is based in Santa Barbara, she has been able to learn to identify many trees through her work building the platform and has been bragging to her roommates about her newfound tree knowledge.
This Fall, Veronica will be entering her second year at Bren. Throughout the year, she’ll be working on a master’s project to analyze how effectively trees remove air pollution in the city of Tacoma. She and her team will assess to what degree trees contribute to improving human health, including reducing asthma rates and cardiovascular and respiratory illness. Following graduation, Veronica hopes to find work in environmental communication and/or assisting city climate change adaptation plans in California.
Canopy is profoundly grateful to Veronica for her work this past summer, as well as to Board Member Maria Chai. Both have put in countless hours to bring the new tree walk platform to fruition!