2018/19 Trinity College Trees Project

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Early in January of this year the Trinity College Trees team (Taylor, Hackett and Hassett) in conjunction with Colin Reid and Dr. Conor Buckley of TCD initiated an ambitious new study on the two large Oregon Maple trees in main College Square.  Both sibling trees were estimated to be over 170 years old and were reported to be suffering some difficulties with fungal infection and lack of adequate water to support their huge structure. 

This 2018 project proposed to build on the research and success of their 2017 project, while focusing on the conservation research and efforts to keep these trees healthy.

During the initial phase of the project the team took more scanning electron microscopic images of the Oregon Maples.  Their aim was to make visible fascinating microscopic elements of these two majestic trees. This allowed for an unique way of viewing and engaging with the trees and their conservation in a busy urban setting.  The team were pleased with the results and over the next few months Hassett devised a plan to create a series of site specific art works to install in both Oregon Maples.  The exhibition and series of performance art works were due to launch during September 2018.

Unfortunately in early June 2018 one of 170 year old majestic Oregon Maples collapsed, splitting into many pieces on the lawn of Main square.  The second sister Oregon Maple tree had to be felled two months later over rising public safety concerns.  It was a very emotional time for staff, students, past pupils and the general public as these two trees had been a very important part of the fabric of Trinity College life for such a long period of time.  

The sudden absence of the two trees left the team at a loss on how to proceed with the project.  Following on from the trees demise the team spent a few months investigating what happened all of a sudden that made the them become so unstable and finally leading one to collapse.  In fact tree surveys taken about a year before showed that the trees were in trouble but not critically so.

Various samples were taken from the remains of the two majestic but fragile Oregon Maple Trees in College Square.  The team sought to explore the structural integrity of the wood samples. After reviewing the scientific and conservations reports it was concluded that both trees just didn’t have enough water in their systems to keep them upright.  They had become so brittle and lacking in water that many of the bolts of the cable bracing system helping to support them had pulled through the thick limbs.  

After a thought provoking collaborative conversation with David Hackett we realised that the two children trees, descendant from the fallen trees and also sited on campus, were also suffering, although to a lesser extent, of drought.  The team decided to re-focus the direction of the project onto the two remaining Oregon Maples in Trinity College Dublin.  They have also narrowed their focus of exploration to the scientific and conservation research and possible future outcomes of the lack of sufficient water in the Oregon Maples of Trinity College Dublin.  

After successfully getting an extension to the project deadline they now plan to launch in Spring 2019.  Proposed artistic responses will include a months display of new artworks installed in both trees, a series of live performances and indoor exhibition on the TCD campus.

Current artistic inspirations include collaborative work on a bio-plastic art material with Conor Buckley and the development of a device that will be able to record the inner sounds of the Oregon Maples drinking water in conjunction with Jeffrey Roe. Other work in progress include the development of drawings on hand made paper using materials gathered from the fallen trees.

Introducing the team – Conor Buckley

Conor Buckley is an Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering at Trinity College Dublin. His current research focuses on developing naturally derived biomaterials and cell based strategies for tissue regeneration and bioprinting applications.

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In 2016, he launched Med3DP (www.med3dp.com), an initiative to develop medical devices for humanitarian healthcare using 3D printing technology and biodegradable materials. Conor’s interest in “The Oregon Maple” project is to assist Olivia apply the wonderful science of natural materials and bioplastics to help “make visible the invisible” in an artistic and inspiring form.

About this blog

This blog celebrates a specific selection of the stunning selection of Trees in Trinity College Dublin.

Early in January of this year the Trinity College Trees team in conjunction with Dr. Conor Buckley of TCD initiated a new study on the two large Oregon Maple trees in College Square.   This 2018 project will build on the research and success of their 2017 project, which involved eight tress (including one of the Oregon Maples in the 2018 project) on the Trinity College Dublin campus.

This blog aims to outlines the conservation, scientific and artistic development and outcomes from both the 2017 and 2018 projects.

The Trinity College Trees Team are tree specialist (David Hackett), scientist (Prof. David Taylor), microscope expert (Dr. Clodagh Dooley), bioplastic specialist (Dr. Conor Buckley) and artist (Olivia Hassett) all based in Trinity College Dublin.

The team aim to make visible fascinating microscopic elements of the trees. This will allow for an unique way of engaging with the trees in an urban setting.

In 2017 in response to the research and microscopic imagery collected the artist created of a series of innovative art works, which were installed in eight trees throughout the campus. This exhibition launched in September 2017 and was supported by a self guided walk with a supporting audio piece that offered detailed information on each tree and the inspiration behind the installed artworks.

For the 2018 project the team propose to undertake a programme of scientific and arboreal sampling and tests to explore the structural integrity of the two majestic but fragile Oregon Maple Trees in College Square.  Proposed artistic responses will include a months display of new artworks installed in both trees, live performance and indoor exhibition on the TCD campus.