Seeing the Forest for the Trees

June 14, 2019 at 3:31 pm
By Eliza Malakoff & Andy Hoyt '19

Forest with Sun 

As two seniors writing the last Arb note of the year, we’ve been reflecting and saying farewell to the Arboretum while we plan for our futures after graduation. This Arb note is an attempt to reconcile both; what we take away from learning about habitat restoration in the Arb and those who do it, and how those lessons apply to our lives beyond Carleton. Here are a few thoughts.

As we consider how we want to contribute to the world, the long-term visions of past restorers challenge us to think about the scope and longevity of our actions. Past restorers and stewards of the Arboretum, such as its founder Harvey Stork and today’s Arboretum staff Nancy Braker and Matt Elbert, think in terms of decades and not years. Their restorations are not intended to flourish immediately but are capable of sustaining themselves and the human communities around them for lifetimes to come. Having experienced the benefits of this foresight in the beauty and solace of the Arboretum, we hope to emulate it in our own decisions.

However, if we have learned anything from the Arboretum, it’s also that foresight alone will not bring a vision to fruition. The process of restoration is one of trial and error. Walking through the Arb, one encounters the evidence of countless past failed experiments in prairie plots still dominated by invasive Kentucky bluegrass and young trees stripped by deer. But in equal evidence are the successful results of years of tenacity, cooperation and collective learning: diverse, native ecosystems, oak savannahs reaching maturity, and the slow return of endangered prairie birds. These successes demonstrate both the persistence and innovation required to create something long-lasting.

Although we will soon be leaving the sights and sounds of the arboretum behind us, the way our time in the Arboretum and our work as Student Naturalists has taught us to see the world will stay with us.

– Eliza Malakoff ’19 and Andy Hoyt ’19 for the Cole Student Naturalists

[Photo: Tom Roster]



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