Careers in Forestry

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Published on: Jul. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 15, 2010

Careers in Conservation

initiating a management plan on a stand and then seeing it through," Massengale said. "It's rewarding to be able to look at that stand afterwards and see the improvement in it and its potential for the future."

Urban forestry

Foresters who work with municipalities are called city or community foresters. Here, you may find yourself working with developers to save trees during construction, supervising the planting of new trees, removing trees that have become hazardous to people or property, or overseeing the pruning of established trees.

A community forester's goal is to have a healthy and growing forest in town despite the tremendous stress trees experience in that type of environment.

"One of my favorite parts of the job is working with people who are enthusiastic about trees and teaching others about the importance of our urban forest," said McAvoy. "It is immensely satisfying to see the results from projects ranging from tree inventories to preservation plans. I like knowing that I had a hand in bettering the urban forest."

Fire suppression

A carelessly thrown match or an unsupervised burn barrel can create a devastating fire. Among other responsibilities, foresters help suppress escaped fires. Russell Schmidt, Fire Training Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation, spends half of the year developing fire-training programs for rural fire departments and for state and federal employees. He spends the other half coordinating personnel assignments for fire duty in the West.

"The best part of my job is teaching people safe methods of managing fires, both wild and prescribed," Schmidt said. "For job satisfaction, you can't beat forestry as a career."

Wood products

Some foresters, such as Connie Rehagen of Perryville, work in private industry. Rehagen runs his own mill in Perryville, where trees are converted into lumber. That lumber is then shipped all over the United States and into Canada. For years, Rehagen has used his forestry degree and training to produce a product that is in high demand.

"I like producing beautiful boards and then traveling the country seeing those boards used in buildings and homes," Rehagen said.

Remote sensing/geographic information systems

Developments in computer and communications technology have had a dramatic impact on a forester's ability to map and describe parcels of land. The inventory of a parcel of land is not complete without using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Sara Bellchamber, a forestry graduate student at the University of Missouri specializing in GIS and forest ecology, said, "GIS allows me to visualize many aspects of a forest landscape, which helps enormously in making better management decisions."

Specialty areas

Some foresters work in unique jobs that are not easily categorized. Scott Wagner, for example, operates a nursery called the Regional Growing Out Station (RGOS). The nursery is run by Forest ReLeaf of Missouri.

"The study of forestry can provide a person with a number of unique opportunities," Wagner said. "My education allowed me to join the Peace Corps and work overseas on an agroforestry project, and now I'm able to be a part of an organization that is making a real difference in Missouri."

With the help of many volunteers, Wagner plants seedling trees provided by The National Tree Trust into pots at RGOS. He grows the trees to a bigger size and then distributes them for planting on public property.

Teaching the public about the role of foresters is also important. Bruce Palmer, Forestry Information Specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, coordinates forestry information and education for the Department.

"I'm basically the forestry public relations person," Palmer explained. "I conduct workshops for teachers and Department staff to teach them about forests and forest management in Missouri. I also work with the news media and the Department's media specialists to convey information about Missouri's forests.

"If you are going into forestry because you think you'll spend days in the woods with just you and your black Lab, think again," Palmer added. "Forestry is 10 percent resource management and 90 percent people management. Your people skills are as important as, or more important than, your technical skills."

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