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Photo of Nimesha Basnayaka
Nimesha Basnayaka. Photo by Blake Eligh
Alumni

Tree Hugger

Geography grad creates a whole new way to see the UTM grounds

If you go into the woods today, you’ll probably notice some shiny new tags on trees around the U of T Mississauga campus. Scan their QR codes with an app on your smartphone, and you’ll be taken to a web page packed with info about the tree, including a photo, identifying characteristics and more.

Known as a “tree caching” trail, the tags are the work of Nimesha Basnayaka (BSc 2015 UTM), a graduate of the environmental science and geography program. Basnayaka created the self-guided campus tree tour as an intern with Climate’s Sake, an environmental education charity based in Mississauga – and now the new grad’s employer.

Working with the UTM grounds division, she identified and catalogued 54 significant tree specimens, with 24 trees making the final list. Follow the trail and you’ll find red and white oaks, several varieties of maple and a northern catalpa located near Deerfield Hall. It was also important to include trees that are significant to the campus’s history. “We included a white oak that’s over a hundred years old,” she says.

Basnayaka pinpointed each tree with GPS coordinates and attached waterproof tags to each one using short nails. “They’re just meant to hold onto the bark, and are easy to remove, if necessary,” she says. “They don’t cause permanent damage.” Basnayaka loves the intersection of nature and technology. “We don’t always take time to notice what’s around us,” she says. “The tree caching tags can help draw attention to that, and help us appreciate the natural world.”

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