The Great Oak Count

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For Homeowners Who Received a Doorhanger

About The Great Oak Count

The Original Oakwell Survey

Pilot Launch

Ways to Get Involved

Get in Touch with Canopy


The most comprehensive survey of native oaks in the Bay Area

Trees are one of the most significant living forces in our environment. In our region, oaks in particular have played a key role in supporting local ecosystems and sustaining a diverse web of native wildlife. Over the last two centuries, however, once prevalent oak woodlands have been largely eliminated, first by agricultural conversion, and later by rapid development and urbanization.

Today, there is increasing recognition that re-integrating oaks in our parks and urban landscapes promises a host of benefits, both for wildlife and for people.

As a first step, Canopy and partners are reviving a comprehensive survey of native oaks in Palo Alto.

During The Great Oak Count, volunteers:

  • Educate the community about the importance of native oak trees and how to properly care for them.
  • Engage residents in using our new Tree Plotter tool to add trees to our community map
  • Gather data on the health, vitality, and number of native oak trees in Palo Alto.
  • Have fun! This is an exciting new citizen science project you won’t want to miss!

The original Oakwell Survey

The original OakWell Survey was one of the first projects taken on by Canopy over 20 years ago. From 1997-2001, a small group of volunteers surveyed coast live oaks, valley oaks, black oaks, and blue oaks to create a baseline for future evaluation of changes in Palo Alto’s native oak population.

This small but dedicated corps of volunteers mapped 9,000 oak trees (13,000 counting groves)! They gathered new and valuable data about the health and locations of these trees, and transferred oak tree care instructions to homeowners.

Oaks in Rinconada Park, 1981 (courtesy of Palo Alto Historical Society)

Fast forward 20 years

Palo Alto’s recently adopted Urban Forest Master Plan addresses the need to conserve and grow our native tree population, and Canopy plays a significant part in this effort by launching The Great Oak Count. We began information gathering about the original survey in 2016, and in October 2017 will launch the survey update efforts

The original surveyors did not know the long-term benefit of the survey at the time, but, combined with new survey data, their efforts will  help today’s urban forest managers understand the trends over the last 20 years, and guide recommendations and re-oaking efforts for the coming decades.

Pilot Launch in October 2017

This “Oaktober”, we piloted a new method of data collection using our brand new Canopy Tree Plotter (stay tuned for more on this soon!). Instead of clipboards and printed reports, volunteers will be equipped with smartphones and tablets, plotting oak trees on an interactive, easy-to-use online map.

Our hope is that this tool will facilitate accurate, efficient data collection, enabling us to assess and report our findings in real time. The user-friendly format will also be fun for volunteers!

If you are an oak owner who received a doorhanger from Canopy, here’s what you need to know

The Great Oak Count doorhanger that homeowners will receive.
  • Volunteers surveyed your tree and added it to our online map. Very soon you will have access to this map to explore our urban forest and even add your own yard trees. Stay tuned!
  • You now have basic native oak tree care information, and we encourage you to act soon if there are immediate improvements you can take to care for it. For more detailed care instructions for your native oak visit our mature tree care page.
  • We have many oaks to survey throughout Palo Alto! If you are interested in volunteering to help, see below for a list of ways to get involved.

Ways to get involved

  • If you would like to help survey oaks, email [email protected] for scheduling group volunteer days or sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about upcoming volunteer events.
  • We are also training Survey Leaders to lead small groups of general volunteers, and to survey trees on their free time. We would love to train many people to be leaders and survey regularly.
  • Survey Scouters walk, bike, or slowly drive neighborhood blocks to get a rough count of the oaks to be surveyed. This is a great job for folks who can develop an eye for spotting oaks and like biking/walking.
  • Fill out the form below or email Indira Selvakumaraswamy at [email protected] to get started as a Survey Leader, Survey Scouter, or Participant.

Key Partners

We’d love to hear from you! If you received a doorhanger, know of an oak tree you would like surveyed, or are interested in volunteering, let us know by completing the form below.  

To learn more about the The Great Oak Count, contact Indira Selvakumaraswamy, Community Outreach Manager, at [email protected].

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