November 14, 2011

For 30 years, compiling a leaf collection usually has been the first and one of the most popular projects of Washington County 4-H’ers. While compiling, assembling and identifying leaves seem like fairly simple tasks, evaluating and providing constructive criticism on 150 leaf collections can be a little overwhelming. This is the situation Roberta Hunt, the county’s 4H Youth development agent with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service found herself in this fall.

Each year, Hunt does presentations for fourth- and fifth-grade students on how to compile and assemble a leaf collection, and then students have the opportunity to collect leaves at home or at school or extension events.

“Glen Dattilo, our former service forester, helped with the program for 27 years,” Hunt said. “When he retired three years ago, it became hard to find a willing, qualified individual to help.”

This year, Hunt asked Doug McLaren, UK extension forestry specialist, for help. McLaren was able to recruit members of the UK Forestry Club to help evaluate the leaf collections. To complete their forestry degree, students must complete a class in dendrology— where they learn the distinguishing features of trees and other woody plants.

“I really appreciate their willingness to help,” Hunt said. “Since Glen retired, it had been getting increasingly difficult to find people who are trained in this field, especially this many.”

For Luke Biscan, UK junior and Forestry Club vice president, the event was a chance to brush up on his leaf identification skills while completing a community service project.

“A leaf collection’s a good way to get students involved and interested in forestry,” he said.

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