‘Sunday Scientist’ spurs tree planting

Dec 17th, 2010 | By | Category: Campus News, November 18

A recent collaboration between the Department of Anthropology and Landscape Services blossomed — literally.

After being asked to participate in Morrill Hall’s “Sunday with a Scientist” series, professor of anthropology Peter Bleed wanted to make his involvement as interactive as possible.

“I didn’t feel like just showing artifacts,” Bleed said. “So I thought about digging.”

For the Sept. 19 event, Bleed dug a 4-by-4 hole that was 3 feet deep outside of Morrill Hall, leading a mini archaeological excavation for the kids in attendance.

“Archaeology is everywhere,” Bleed said. “I wanted to show that you can dig places and make archaeological observations right in front of the museum.”

After the dig, Bleed teamed up with Eileen Bergt, campus landscape architect and director, to plant a tree in the hole that no longer served an archaeological purpose.

The location of the hole proved to be an ideal spot to add a little greenery.

“There is a row of trees near Morrill Hall and it looks like one is missing,” Bergt said. “So I said, ‘Let’s try and do it’.”

After ensuring the safety of various utility lines that run along the north side of Morrill Hall, Bergt gave the OK for a bigtooth maple to be planted and establish its roots outside of the museum.

Native to northern regions, bigtooth maples would’ve been growing in Nebraska around the time of the last ice age, Bergt said.

“The bigtooth maple is very appropriate for the location outside Morrill Hall since it’s an ice-age survivor in some states,” she said.

The tree’s ties to the ice age complement the museum’s numerous exhibits about the same historical time period.

“I’m impressed at the many interconnections of this project,” Bleed said. “This could’ve been nothing at all.”

As a mid-story bigtooth maple, the tree might not grow to be mammoth-sized like its bronze sculpture neighbor Archie.

However, the museum plans to place a plaque in front of the tree to guarantee its archaeological significance doesn’t go unnoticed by future generations of Huskers.

“Important activities happen in the classroom,” Bleed said. “But important activities happen on campus grounds, too.”

– Mekita Rivas, University Communications

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