5Qs with Jamie Lim, Arborist, Central Park Conservancy

Our 5Qs series is a chance for you to get to know about folks in the Singapore Global Network community, where we pose 5 questions to exciting individuals to find out more about what they do!

25 November 2021 / By SGN

1. What do you do as an arborist?

I maintain and care for the trees in Central Park, to keep them healthy and safe for park patrons. Because Central Park is a popular tourist attraction and sees several major events and concerts annually, the primary focus of my work is to inspect trees for their structural integrity and manage any risk (e.g. any tree or tree part falling and potentially injuring someone) that they can pose to the public. I also monitor and treat trees for any pests and diseases issues, regularly prune trees to maintain them, and respond to any storm and emergency situations (e.g. fallen trees or tree part over a major street) related to trees.

Jamie conducting an advanced level inspection in Central Park
Conducting an advanced level inspection in Central Park, by climbing and using a resistance recording drill to check on the internal condition of the trunk.

2. How did you fall in love with trees and plants and what made you decide to do this as a career?

It was through my first job in the National Parks Board of Singapore (NParks) that developed my interest and passion in arboriculture, and also by chance that I entered arboriculture as a career. A friend introduced me to a Streetscape Manager position at NParks while I was job-hunting after graduating from university. He told me that the job was about inspecting and maintaining the roadside trees in Singapore, which sounded interesting. In addition, I wanted to secure a job soon, and decided to apply for the position. It was through this job that I first learnt about the field of arboriculture and urban forestry. It was all new to me that the work and field itself intrigued me.

Weekly tree climbing sessions with colleagues from NParks
One of the weekly tree climbing sessions with colleagues from NParks.

Eventually, it was the passion in greenery that my colleagues in NParks had that rubbed off me and also got me excited to learn more about my work. The people and work environment in NParks provided me with a very enjoyable working and learning experience. It was also in NParks that I learnt about tree climbing, which was so fun that it got me hooked on the tree work aspect of arboriculture. I eventually transferred to the Arborist Team of the Streetscape Department, where my job focused on conducting detailed inspections of trees, and that often involved having to access a tree aerially (either by climbing or with an aerial lift) to check on any possible defects. We also had to use tree diagnostic equipment like the resistance measuring drill and tomography which can assess the internal condition of a tree. Since I was always hanging around trees at work, I eventually grew to love them and my work in arboriculture. Now, it has become both my passion and career.

3. Wow, it must be a dream to work at Central Park! How does your work vary across the seasons?

While we generally inspect the trees in the park all year round, summer is the busiest time of the year. The frequency and number of tree inspections increase in the summer because of several major events like concerts happening in the park. This means that we have to inspect the trees in these event areas regularly to ensure that the trees are safe for park patrons. We also start monitoring our trees for various pests and diseases in the summer. One of them is the Dutch Elm Disease, which infects American Elm trees and can cause them to severely decline. The Mall in Central Park has an iconic collection of these American Elm trees and several other mature specimens of American Elms also exist throughout the park. Therefore, it is vital to protect and preserve them since they are essential to the landscape of Central Park. We also experience tropical storms in the summer, which can damage or take down trees and branches. When these emergencies happen, we are mobilized immediately to clear or remove any trees or tree parts that might cause obstruction or impact any parts of the park.

Jamie and her team who work on the trees in Central Park

As the season transitions to fall and leaves start shedding, work starts to taper down too. We continue to monitor our oak trees as they start showing signs of a disease infection called Bacterial Leaf Scorch, and inspect our trees before the iconic Thanksgiving Day Parade. Winter is an ideal time for pruning. As the park is less crowded and as trees go into dormancy, we use this time to focus on maintenance work in areas that are usually crowded (for eg: the playgrounds) and close the transverse roads for tree maintenance work. If there are snow storms that cause damage to trees, we will also clean up and inspect the area to ensure that it is safe for park-goers.

Jamie on the tree
Spot Jamie on the tree!

With the onset of warmer weather in Spring, events start picking up again, and so do our tree inspections. As the trees become active, we also start our Integrated Pest Management program where we plan and strategize our pests and diseases monitoring work for the summer and start on tree injection applications to protect certain tree species that are vulnerable to pests and diseases.

4. What are your favourite (and perhaps less known) parts of Central Park?

The North Woods in Central Park. It is not only the largest of the three natural landscapes in Central Park, but it is also designed to be rugged natural forested area: a nice stream that run across the woods that ends in a small “waterfall”, so the sound of water, together with dense, mature forest-like trees species creates a very peaceful environment. I like its tranquility and the close proximity to the city offers a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Jamie and her dog Wooju
Jamie and her dog Wooju enjoying a white Prospect Park!

5. Both New York City and Singapore are dense and busy cities with tons of green spaces and parks. What do you love about the nature parks in both cities?

I love that nature parks provide a form of respite for people living in the city. While nature parks and urban green spaces provide many environmental benefits to cities, I think the most impactful factor is the psychological benefit to the community that these green spaces can provide. It is a place for rest, relaxation and recreation for people living in fast paced cities to enjoy. Having urban green spaces provide easy access for people in the cities to escape to the calming world of nature, helps people understand and appreciate nature itself as well, so that they too can love and protect the environment. At the height of the Covid 19 pandemic, nature parks have become even more important as being one of the few public spaces that people can meet safely and have a breath of fresh air.

Jamie and her friends
Jamie (second from left) and her (human and furry) friends at Hariman State Park
Jamie fall hike
Fall hike in the Catskills.

About Jamie

Jamie is an arborist with the Central Park Conservancy. She started working with trees in the National Parks Board of Singapore, which cultivated her passion and interest in arboriculture. She eventually pursued a Masters’ program in the University of Massachusetts in Amherst to further her knowledge and skills in arboriculture. After graduating, she moved to New York City to join the Central Park Conversancy. Outside of work, she loves being in the outdoors to hike, camp, travel to new places, running, biking in the city, and hanging out with her dog, Wooju. She also loves food: whether it is cooking, baking or eating them, especially gathering with friends over meals and exploring the city for new places to try.

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