Seton Hill grad’s university tree map is legacy to alma mater
Anyone making the long, winding drive leading to the campus of Seton Hill University may have wondered about the trees lining the entrance.
Wonder no more. They are London planetrees, and they are among 52 tree species that contribute to the Greensburg school’s bucolic appearance.
Those species include sugar, silver, red and Japanese red maple, Northern, Southern and umbrella magnolia, mulberry, hickory, spruce, walnut, cedar and pine. Their identities, and their locations, are included in an interactive map compiled by recent biology graduate Hannah Hartman.
The 22-year-old Cleona, Lebanon County, resident was looking for a capstone project as part of the school’s honors program.
Research she was conducting in her minor, gender and women’s studies, failed to move her, Hartman says.
Then campus archivist Bill Black struck up a conversation with her about an existing campus tree map from the early 1990s.
“He said, ‘I’d love to have it redone,’ ” Hartman recalls.
A few months later, she said, the idea clicked.
Old map redo
Hartman stayed on campus over last summer as a resident assistant.
During a recent return to campus, she pointed out trees — now barren or with leaves turned winter brown — that populate her map.
“It was easier to identify trees with leaves on them,” she said.
Her map of about 500 trees covers the bottom of long Seton Hill Drive to DeChantal Hall.
“I always wanted to be a history major. I love history. I loved going down to talk with (Black),” Hartman said. “He knew that I liked trees.”
One day, she went out onto campus property and tried to find trees listed on the older map.
“A lot had been replaced by buildings, or felled by storms,” she said.
Hartman found that the old map stopped near the administration building’s courtyard.
She shares in her project’s online introduction that many of the London planetrees lining the school’s entry were planted by the Sisters of Charity in 1924.
Many other trees were planted as memorials or donated by school classes.
“Tree planting is still part of our culture here,” Hartman said.
One tree at a time
“I drew the buildings and drew in trees and numbered them, what’s still here and not here. … I had a field guide book that took me through the steps of identifying (trees), but only trees naturally found here,” she said.
Ornamentals, like the pear trees near a commuter parking lot, were not as easy to identify.
“If I was stumped, I’d ask (Black) and he would know immediately. He would know before I handed him the leaf,” she said, laughing.
“I’ve liked trees ever since I was a kid. I used to climb them. … I had friends that were Boy Scouts, and they could look at trees and know it was a maple. I was amazed,” she said.
Project adviser Jessica Brzyski, associate professor of biology, said Hartman challenged herself through new endeavors by combining map making, history and digital production.
“The website is very well-done. It looks professional. I was amazed she was able to get so many trees. I saw what she was working with. (The original map) was very rudimentary,” Brzyski said. “Hannah designed the whole thing herself. She was quite confident she could do it. And she just ran with it.”
Unlike many capstone projects, Hartman’s work can continue to be used in the future, Brzyski said.
“We’re a big footprint in the community. We’re this big, giant hill. … People walk around here all the time,” she added.
University officials are intrigued with the idea of possibly turning the map into a mobile app to further increase its use, Brzyski said.
“Hannah is a unique student. She is self-motivated, dedicated, enthusiastic. … She should be proud of (the map),” she said.
Fellow students and friends Kait Germanoski (a graphic design major) and Marisa Valotta (an English major), helped respectively with map design skills and note taking during tree identification.
As a side work study project, Hartman helped with renovation of the campus greenhouse.
“I wanted to fix that up and keep that legacy growing,” she said.
Looking back, forward
As president of the school’s Biology Club, one of Hartman’s final campus projects was helping coordinate the planting of a new tree along Seton Hill Drive. The London planetree was dedicated in October to the late Suzanne Rogers, a former associate professor of biology.
“We knew that would thrill her. Dr. Rogers loved the planetrees,” she said.
Hartman hopes to soon start a career in forestry or ecology.
And she looks forward to future visits to her alma mater, where her own legacy includes a map of the living history adorning its grounds.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .