If the trees in your backyard are looking under the weather, Pitzer College alumnus Joey Sulpizio ’22 wants to be the man you call. A plant health care technician at the Davey Tree Expert Company in Englewood, CO, Sulpizio is training and studying to become an arborist like his supervisor, who does the initial inspection and is certified by the International Society of Arboriculture in the knowledge of trees and tree biology.
Sulpizio’s relationship with trees began early in his college experience as an environmental analysis major at Pitzer. Sulpizio founded the Pitzer Plants Trees club on campus. He was also an arborist intern at the Davey Tree Expert Company in Menlo Park, and he led community tree plantings with the Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco. In his senior year, he documented the trees on campus after a severe windstorm in Claremont for his thesis, which Sulpizio credits for deepening his passion.
“I put at least a hundred hours into my thesis,” said Sulpizio. “I took inventory of every tree on campus. You think it’s a couple hundred trees, but it ended up being over 500 trees.”
Sulpizio marked geographic locations and identified the approximate height, width, canopy, and health of all the trees. His thesis also investigated why certain trees fell, what trees should be planted in their place, and what to keep in mind while planting new trees—such as resilience in the face of climate change. Professor of Environmental Analysis Susan A. Phillips, Sulpizio’s thesis adviser, was blown away by the project. “She said I saved Pitzer thousands of dollars by doing it,” said Sulpizio.
“Mother Nature is so strong, but at the same time, we’re planting trees that don’t belong in certain areas because we like the look of it,” continued Sulpizio. “The more trees there are, the better, especially in urban areas with the heat island effect. Protecting trees has a direct impact on the environment.”
What Sulpizio most appreciated about his environmental analysis major was its interdisciplinary approach. One of his favorite classes, California Water Policy, discussed how Los Angeles doesn’t have enough water to support all its residents and trees and showed the importance of native species that don’t need tons of water. “That gave me an appreciation for Pitzer’s campus because most of the trees are native,” said Sulpizio. “We have a more climate-resilient campus.”
Now that he has recently graduated from Pitzer, Sulpizio notes that what he will miss the most is the community. “People felt really genuine and inclusive. It felt like I always had a friend. It was the best four years of my life.”