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Granted, it’s a killer

Senior Gerland eradicates invasive tree species

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Senior Joseph Gerland sprays herbicide on one of the hundreds of Chinese tallow trees he is eradicating from the campus.

Haley Williams, Managing Editor

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Money doesn’t grow on trees, except when it come to senior Joseph Gerland who has recently finished a grant project he started earlier this year  involving an invasive tree species. 

“What I am doing is basically getting rid of harmful trees on the school campus,” Gerland said. “The trees are called Chinese tallow trees. They are harmful to the native tree species because they grow at a much faster rate and much healthier quicker.”

Gerland was introduced to the idea last fall during Truitt Eubank’s environmental science class. 

“We actually did a little bit of an invasive species research, not a project, but we covered it,” Gerland said. “So when we did that, we went out there and I noticed there was a bunch of trees out there.” 

Eubank said he’s in awe of Gerland’s project and the time and effort he is putting into it.

“I think it’s [the grant project] is fantastic,” Eubank said. “He’s got such a researcher’s mind and he can just see how all the application of this is going to be relevant not just this year but 20 years from now, 30 years from now.” 

I think it’s [the grant project] is fantastic. He’s got such a researcher’s mind and he can just see how all the application of this is going to be relevant not just this year but 20 years from now, 30 years from now.”

— Eubank

Gerland’s free time has been used learning and researching ways to safely rid the campus of the tallow trees. 

“A lot of my free time went to researching and figuring out how I would actually do this,” Gerland said. “There are a couple of methods I am using.” 

Gerland said he had three methods of killing or removing the unwanted trees, dependent on the growth stage.

“One herbicide is called clear cast and what that is good for is that the trees that are still young enough for me to be able to reach the tops of them,” Gerland said.  “And for the trees that actually have some width to them, that are taller, I’m using an herbicide called arsenal. And what you do is you hatch into the tree and you go past a layer called the cambrian, then you spray into the cut you made.” 

For more mature trees, the only way is to cut them down.  

“Then the third is called cut stump,” Gerland said. “Sometimes the it’s just advantageous to cut the tree down. So you cut it down, as close to the ground as you can, and then you spray the stump with herbicide. It kills the root system.”  

Gerland assures that the herbicides he has chosen to use are environmentally safe for the surrounding trees. 

“The herbicide that I use is broad leaf specific so pine trees. It doesn’t harm them just by getting on them,” Gerland said. “To be able to actually kill one of the native trees, I would have to cut into them and spray it.” 

The grant awarded to Gerland was to eliminate trees on the 50 acres around the school. 

“Initially I went through, and I didn’t do an official count, I just went through and hand counted,” Gerland said. “I counted about 400, but then after actually doing the grant and actually going in there and getting all the little areas, I’d say I’ve done well over 1,500 or close to 2,000.” 

With the help of friends like senior Preslie Perry, Gerland has been able to keep a clear mind and finish before graduation. 

“I was mainly the support system,” Perry said. “There were times where he doubted himself because there was just so many trees. I went out a few days and helped him spray the trees.”

Ellen Temple of the Temple Foundation been an important part of Gerland’s project.

“She told me that if I wrote up a grant proposal, she would fund me to get rid of them,” Gerland said. “So I did. She has written me two different grants for the supplies.” 

The project doesn’t just end after the first round of treatment, it is an annual trip he will have to make to keep treatment going. 

“One round of treatment doesn’t keep the trees from repopulating,” Gerland said. “I have to return every May to continue the treatment.” 

Gerland’s ambition has him achieving and working on a project that advanced college students normally would do, according to Eubank.

“He’s got a grant to do what most with doctorate degrees do,” Eubank said. “It’s hard to obtain a grant and to fulfill it.”

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