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Evan Keto has successfully combined a long-held interest in environmental issues with more recent work experience to design a unique master’s thesis project involving trees in parking lots.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, Evan studied environmental science.  From there, he worked of the U.S. government doing a tree inventory in Washington, D.C. and then writing environmental impact assessments.  He liked working in a city and looked to a graduate degree to advance in the field of forestry.  With current and future growth in urban areas, urban forest research and management seemed to be a secure job market worth pursuing.

Soon after starting NCSU, Evan took Gary Blank’s FOR 784 class, The Practice of Environmental Impact Assessment.  While researching a project for that class, he found that parking lots create many of the environmental impacts in urban areas, yet there was little research on the trees which are commonly planted in parking lots. A better understanding of how trees are being grown in parking lots could help decrease these environmental impacts.

Evan’s project characterized the composition, function, and benefits of trees in parking lots in the city of Raleigh.  He measured more than 1,700 trees in parking lots across the city with the goal of understanding the composition of these trees at the citywide scale. This composition can then be used to estimate the benefits created by these trees. For instance, large-growing trees like oaks are more effective at reducing stormwater runoff, absorbing air pollution, sequestering carbon dioxide, and lowering energy costs than small-growing trees like crape myrtles, and these differences can be expressed in dollars. His research (along with other research) found that the estimated costs of trees in parking lots are outweighed by the estimated benefits to the public, but some arrangements of trees are far more beneficial than others. He is hoping his findings will be useful to urban foresters, city governments, cooperative extension staff, and parking lot owners.

Evan received a Hofmann assistantship to cover his stipend and tuition.  He also received a Garden Club of America Urban Forestry Fellowship which paid for materials, fuel, some equipment, and printing final publications.  While here, he served as a TA for several semesters and won an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2009.

One of the best experiences Evan had at NCSU was attending the Society of American Foresters conference in Portland, Oregon.  He enjoyed learning about diverse research projects, exploring the different opportunities available, and seeing how big the field really is. In addition, he says “The excellent classes here filled in gaps in my knowledge.  Being a teaching assistant for Sarah Warren and George Hess was a great experience and pretty exciting.”

Evan graduated in 2010 and is currently the urban forester for the Loudoun County, Virginia.