Ropes, helmets, and harnesses are as second nature to Brian Kane as, well, climbing a tree. From early childhood right up until today, his fascination with trees and the outdoors has been a driving force in his life. So much so that it has led him to a career as professor of commercial arboriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Kane has held this position -- endowed by the Massachusetts Arborist Association -- since 2004, a dream job for a wiry guy who loves to teach, conduct research and offer outreach through Extension.
His days at UMass are filled with teaching undergraduate classes including those that demonstrate field techniques for tree-climbing and proper chain saw safety procedures. His research focuses on two aspects of arboriculture: 1) the effects of arboricultural practice (pruning, cabling, rigging, etc.) on the likelihood of tree failure, and 2) ways arborists can work more safely. He regularly publishes papers in scholarly journals. Kane enjoys outreach to the wider community, even working in some towns on tree risk assessment, including nearby Sunderland. (For local readers, Kane assures us that the remarkable, largest American sycamore tree east of the Mississippi is alive and well in that community.) He can also be found offering presentations around the New England and across the world. Kane’s work finds root in professional and chapter meetings along with lecturing at state conferences. He has travelled as far as Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia providing his audiences education on work safety, arboricultural biomechanics, cabling, rigging and much more. Back here in Massachusetts, Kane teaches green industry professionals through UMass Extension’s biannual Green School in the spring. His primary interest lies in urban forestry.
His research and arboricultural work have earned him several awards. Among them, the 2011 Early Career Scientist Award and the prestigious 2014 Alex Shigo Award for Excellence in Arboricultural Education from the International Society of Arboriculture.
When not thinking about trees, Brian can be found relaxing with his favorite hobby, bird-watching. But even then, it really is all about the trees. He recently published a paper on the use of trees by cavity-nesting birds (i.e. woodpeckers, owls, wood ducks, etc.) that result in some degree of risk to tree viability. And, of course, he has published a paper on this issue. If you have access to the UMass Library, read it here.