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Tree Doctor: First Step to the Communication with Trees

2018-12-28l Hit 2002

 According to the amended Forest Protection Act of June 2018, only people with a tree doctor licenses will be allowed to diagnose and prescribe trees, beginning in 2023. This is to improve Korea’s current plant-management situation. Despite expanding urban green spaces, the expertise of existing forestry corporations (tree clinics) has reduced, resulting in various side effects caused by non-experts (i.e. apartment managers, school administration, pest control companies, etc.). These entities lack knowledge about tree diseases and pests, resulting in misdiagnosis. To obtain a tree-doctor license, one should get training in one of ten training centers designated by the Korea Forest Service and pass the national qualification test. The SNU CALS Plant Clinic is the first training center designated by the Korea Forest Service to provide training programs for tree doctors and tree therapists, and it started its first tree-doctors and tree-therapists training program in August 2018. In our November Newsletter, we printed an interview with Professor Kook-Hyung Kim of SNU CALS’ Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, who assumes the head of the Plant Clinic, to learn more about the clinic and the tree-doctor training program.

 The SNU Plant Clinic aims to maintain a healthy urban forest by making accurate diagnoses and providing right treatment for a variety of diseases, pests, and physiological and meteorological disorders that damage the trees planted around us. Launched as a tree clinic within a college at SNU in 1999, it was reorganized and expanded to the Plant Clinic in 2005 as an organization affiliated with SNU CALS. In 2012, it was given the name SNU Tree Diagnosis Center and was designated by the Korea Forest Service to cover Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi Province. The Plant Clinic provides a variety of diagnostic services for the general public including a website, email, mail, phone, and office and site visits, and it provides an accurate diagnosis of the damages done to the trees as well as professional information on how to manage them. Moreover, it has implemented an Eco-campus project, under which the clinic monitors the health of the landscaping trees within the SNU campus, regarding diseases, pests, and physiological disorders, and it evaluates and gives advice on planting conditions. Furthermore, it plays a direct role as a SNU-affiliated facility by making diagnoses within the SNU campus, making appropriate prescriptions, and performing tree surgeries to protect landscaping trees. In addition to these activities, in 2000 the clinic began providing training on landscaping-trees maintenance for professionals in relevant industries. As of June 2018, the Plant Clinic has trained 2,834 people over 36 sessions. Also, since 2013, it has run tree-maintenance-technology training and workshops for the personnel in charge of tree maintenance in the Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi Province governments.

 Tree-doctor training started in August 2018. Its systematic professional training system has birthed a number of “tree health professionals” who are committed to accurately diagnosing tree damage, creating a pleasant living environment, and promoting public health. The term “tree treatment” refers to all activities necessary for making an accurate diagnosis, and for prescription, treatment, and prevention. Tree doctors are the ones in charge of treating trees, and tree therapists are those responsible for prevention and treatment in accordance with the tree doctors’ diagnoses and prescriptions. The therapists do not need to pass the national qualification test; they become qualified when they complete the training program and test at a designated training center. The SNU Plant Clinic’s current trainees range from people in their 20s to those in their 70s. Most trainees worked in related fields such as tree clinics, landscaping companies, and forestry companies which were involved in tree treatments prior to the amendment of the Forest Protection Act, so more than half of them are in their 50s and 60s. There are also SNU members, including undergraduates and graduate students. According to Professor Kim, what differentiates SNU’s program from others are the following: the center provides a variety of programs including landscaping-tree maintenance and tree-maintenance technology and workshops, and the programs are taught by experienced SNU professors. Also, SNU develops and uses its own teaching materials. Professor Kim also emphasized that the SNU training center uses SNU’s open spaces and various CALS facilities for carrying out practical field education.

 In addition to a professional training course, the Plant Clinic has been developing various promotional activities and providing source books, and it plans to update its website. These activities are to raise public awareness of the need for tree maintenance. As of today, the Plant Clinic offers a landscaping-tree-maintenance training program twice a year (summer and winter) for the general public, in which they learn about the overall maintenance of neighborhood trees. Moreover, every year the Plant Clinic publishes on its website the source books of a dozen themes related to tree-maintenance knowledge. Still, there are a variety of symptoms and causes to consider before making a diagnosis, which makes diagnosis difficult for the general public. Therefore, people are encouraged to make careful observations and take advantage of the Plant Clinic and the tree doctors so that neighborhood trees can be properly maintained.

 As we concluded the interview, Professor Kim highlighted that a tree doctor is a prospective career enabling people to contribute to society while having the added benefit of being a tree expert for life. Professor Kim encourages young people, including SNU undergraduates, to take the training so they can help in the future. SNU CALS is one of the top colleges in the country, leading not only in the academic and research fields but also in social needs by nurturing professionals such as tree doctors.

[Figure 1] Participants of Tree doctor program listening to the lecture

Ji-Soo Lim, So-Jin Na
Student reporters, CALS