Wait; what's it like to be a forester?

Wait; what’s it like to be a forester?

At the end of October, I had the chance to attend the Society of American Foresters (SAF) Conference
in Charleston, South Carolina. As a Master of Environmental Science (MESc) grad, it was fun to hang out with forestry students and alumni and hear about their experiences. I got a chance to sit down with some Master of Forestry (MF) students and hear about their experience on Forest Crew over the summer.

Forest Crew is a program that manages the Yale Forests with oversight by Professor Mark Ashton. Yale owns 10,880 acres of forestland in New England, including the Yale-Myers Forest in northeastern Connecticut. This mixed hardwoods forest is at the heart of the last significant undeveloped area in the DC to Boston metropolis, nicknamed the “Quiet Corner” as it is the last dark spot you can see from space at night on the Atlantic Seaboard. Forest management at all the Yale Forests is focused on creating a diverse and resilient landscape to increase biodiversity, protect water resources, and support local livelihoods.


Taking a chainsaw training. Photo by Klaus Geiger, MF ’14.

While many forestry schools own experimental forests, Yale-Myers is not only used as a “living laboratory” for many researchers at F&ES, but also as a training ground. During the Forest Crew program, students manage one division of the forest each summer. The process begins with checking access and boundaries, designing their own sampling plan, and conducting an extensive forest inventory. After data is collected, students analyze it to decide which parts of the forest should be improved through silvicultural treatments such as thinnings (to promote the growth of the best trees) or shelterwoods (to regenerate species that need more light). They then mark sales, which are put out to bid in the fall and harvested by local loggers under the supervision of our Forest Manager and student assistants.


But don’t worry MEMs and MESc students, you don’t miss out! All F&ES students get the chance to visit Yale-Myers during the three-week orientation modules in August. All students also get many opportunities to come back during the following years; maintaining our Christmas Tree Farm, attending prescribed burns, sampling local streams, or taking part in our FSC certification audit. Some courses also include a field component at our forests. For instance, over the past 3 years, students have written management plans covering more than 1,200 acres of forestland around Yale-Myers. You can also come visit on your own! Last March, my dad took a break from running our Tree Farm in Oregon and came to visit us in New Haven. We drove up and took a nice hike around the forest (in 8” of snow!) identifying trees and checking out past thinnings and regeneration harvests.

F&ES is one of the oldest forestry schools in the nation and still holds true to its roots. Forestry remains a strong cultural and academic component of the school. Remember, forestry is not just about trees: it is a tool to achieve sustainable land stewardship, ecosystem restoration, wildlife habitat enhancement, water management, carbon storage, climate change mitigation, and much more. MF and MFS student interests are as varied as the discipline, with studies ranging from ecosystem finance to tropical forest management and urban forestry. So for incoming students – there is a wide range of opportunities available to be a “forester”, even if you have no previous forestry experience.

For more information about the MF, MFS or any of the programs and degrees at Yale feel free to email me at vanessa.lamers@yale.edu.


Summer at Yale-Myers Camp. Photo by Monte Kawahara, MF ’13