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If you are looking for a career path, consider obtaining a degree in forest ecology and management. Careers in forestry offer challenging, specialized work that can positively impact the planet. If you have a strong interest in science and mathematics, enjoy being outdoors, and wish to help conserve environmental resources, forestry could be an excellent field for you.
What Is Forest Ecology and Management?
Knowledge of Large Tracks of Trees
Foresters work with entire forests, as opposed to arborists, who specialize in individual trees. Their work can include conservation efforts, surveying forest activity, and fire prevention. Other possible responsibilities of a forester include dealing with invasive species, managing disease, consulting with timber harvesters, and educating others.
Understanding of the Biological and Scientific Complexity of Forests
To perform their work, foresters need to understand the factors that contribute to a healthy forest ecosystem. This include the biology of the species that live in the forest, the chemistry of the different materials one can find there, physics, and the geography of the area. Forester ecology and management pertains to how balance is maintained in a forest and how it is subject to environmental change. Foresters research the environmental history of the forest and make predictions for how it will evolve over time.
The Ability to Operate Special Technology and Equipment
There is a large variety of specialized technology and equipment used in forest ecology and management. Foresters use:
- Scientific tools to conduct field research
- Surveyance tools
- Graphing technology and programs for statistical analysis
- Heavy machinery
- Fire-fighting equipment
Physical Strength and Endurance
Foresters, especially those who do the physical work of maintaining the trees and fighting fires, often need to be exceptionally strong. Most work outside, sometimes in adverse conditions. This is a plus for people who enjoy working with their bodies, but a minus for those who don’t tolerate uncomfortable conditions.
Foresters are often responsible for recording data, writing up the results of scientific experiments, and logging certain human activities within the forest. Sometimes, organizations such as National Parks will hire them to keep records of the soil, water, foliage, and other aspects of the forest.
Ability to Work With and Educate Others
Forestry is an area of expertise, and, as a result, foresters are often hired to consult teams and organizations. Other foresters, especially forest rangers, are in charge of enforcing protocols and educating the public. Teaching, which involves interaction with students, is an option for foresters. All of these aspects of forest ecology and management require good people skills.
Knowledge of Federal, State, and Local Laws
Maintaining forests is a matter of public interest and is subject to government regulations. Foresters, therefore, need to understand laws surrounding fire prevention, use of public lands, and environmental protection.
Fire Fighting Tactics
Pun intended, fire is a hot issue when it comes to forest ecology and management. Understanding laws that pertain to fire prevention, proper safety protocol, and what to do in the case of fire is essential to some of the jobs one can obtain with a forestry degree. Certain jobs require previous fire-fighting experience.
Is There a Need for Forestry Degrees?
People with these degrees are hired by environmental organizations and government agencies to study how to best conserve forests. They conduct field research, examine data, and develop policies based on their findings.
Foresters are needed to plan harvests, inspect lumber, and rehabilitate an area after a harvest has been done. Their work can improve the profits of a business. In some cases, it can also help companies conduct their business in eco-friendly ways. Key industries that hire foresters include the paper, lumber, and electric industries.
The foresters who are in academia help students develop an understanding of forest ecology and management. They interact with students in the classroom and outside for field research. They might also lecture and publish articles in academic journals.
Maintaining trees and green public spaces requires the input of people with forestry degrees. They are involved in the planning and caring for parks and trees throughout the city. They might also remove invasive species or treat plant illnesses.
Organizations That Hire Foresters:
- The Nature Conservancy
- U.S. Bureau of Land Management
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- NC State Extension
- International Paper and Rayonier
- NC Forest Service
- Alaska State Department of Natural Resources
- J.W. Jones Lumber Company
- Timbco and Hunt Forest Resources
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- USDA Forest ServiceC. Maynard Johnson Consultant Forestry
- Carolina Tree Care
- Hancock Forest Management Group
Organizations That Provide Internships and Volunteer Opportunities
To secure a competitive job in forestry, it helps to acquire work experience in addition to a degree. Consider applying to:
- The 21st Century Conservation Corps
- The U.S. Forest Service
- Generation Green
- The Forest Stewards Guild
- The National Forest Foundation
- The Society of American Foresters (SAF) Henry Clepper Internship
Jobs for Forest Ecology and Management Graduates
Conservation and Resource Forester
This is the job title of someone who does scientific work to hone his or her knowledge of forest ecosystems. He or she then develops policies around proper management. In some cases he or she will oversee their implementation. The average salary is $65,130 per year.
Forest and Conservation Technician
These people work under Conservation and Resource Foresters, doing the physical and technical aspects of the job. They might gather soil data, survey species within the forest, observe water quality, and keep records or logging. Some aspects of their work, like planting trees and preventing fires, is seasonal. The median salary is $36,130 per year.
Environmental Compliance Inspector
This job requires extensive awareness of federal and state laws that pertain to pollution. Environmental compliance inspectors investigate areas in which pollution has occurred and locate the responsible parties. They can then advise efforts to rehabilitate the affected regions. The median salary is $67,870.
Within forests, this vocation deals with the wildlife. Environmental biologists study the species that inhabit their given area with the aim of rehabilitating endangered species and controlling pests.
Log Grafer and Scaler
Log grafers and scalers are employed within the timber industry to appraise wood that has been harvested and perform some quality control work. The median salary is $37,880 per year.
At a higher level, procurement agents consult with individuals within the timber industry on the purchase of harvestable areas and the drafting of contracts. They also plan the harvesting activities, hire teams of workers, and oversee the construction of temporary roads and structures. The average salary is $68,610 within the paper industry and $74,080 in the electric industry.
Forest rangers patrol National Parks and other areas maintained by the federal and state governments. They keep track of the status of the forest and regulate potential problems, such as insects, fire, and flooding. They also assist visitors, provide information, and enforce proper forest-going etiquette. The average salary is $63,000 per year.
Forest Fire Inspection and Prevention Specialist
This job entails assessing areas for the risk of fire and developing strategies to minimize that risk. They perform inspections to ensure that regulations are being followed and report any fires that occur. They are usually former fire fighters. The median salary is $37,380 per year.
Forest and Wildland Firefighter
These are firefighters who are specially trained to prevent and deal with fires in unpopulated areas. A subset, the smoke jumpers, can actually parachute into hard-to-access places when fires break out there. The median salary is $49,080.
In wetland areas, these individuals analyze water samples, examine the soil, and monitor living organisms. They write reports on their findings and help to maintain clean water.
As the name implies, fallers use specialized knowledge and equipment to fell trees. They examine the trees for good cut lines, assess the area onto which the tree will fall, and make sure that the fall can be done safely. The median salary is $40,690 per year.
Urban foresters plan and maintain green areas in urban spaces. The average salary is $65,130 per year.
Professors teach aspects of forest ecology and management to students in high school or at the college level. The median salary is $87,420 per year.
Extension agents develop educational programs around forestry for their communities. Their work is relevant to agricultural, economic, and environmental issues.
So, what can you do with a forest ecology and management degree? You can obtain a job that involves working outdoors in a scientific field. This offers the satisfaction of using both specialized knowledge and physical strength. You can work to determine policies and enforce standards that keep people safe. Additionally, you can help ensure that environmental resources are responsibly maintained for future generations.