Each year, the Society of American Foresters (SAF) National Convention brings together forestry professionals from all over the country. From researchers to non-profit organizations, industry members traveled to Sacramento, Calif., to attend the conference. Attendees heard from keynote speakers, discussed new research findings, and attended professional development workshops.
Several UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) students studying forest resources and conservation attended the event. Six senior forest resources and conservation students received financial assistance from the VP Promise Initiative. These students include Cody Ball, Alexandra Eady, Garrett Henderson, Jennifer Jarman, Brett Marshall and Allie Mitchell.
Students attended various speaker sessions with topics ranging from sustainable forest management to science communication and modeling systems to timber markets. Opening session keynote speakers Tom Fox, James Lewis and Linda Nagel discussed “what is a forester?” Mitchell’s perspective broadened with the array of responses given by the audience.
“Foresters are not limited to a single definition; they are artists, change-makers, ecologists, researchers and more. This moment taught me that I too am a forester, even though I am merely a student in the field,” said Mitchell.
In addition to listening to plenaries and smaller lectures, the students learned about new research and technologies within the forestry industry. Through this experience, students discovered new trends for the industry and what to expect as they enter the field. Marshall listened to assistant director and forester in the UF/IFAS School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences Scott Sager’s presentation on cross-laminated timer’s use in new construction.
“Hearing about these new wood products really makes you think how the industry is going to evolve over the course of our careers, and the opportunities that will emerge with the growing market,” said Marshall.
Throughout their time in California, the student attendees networked with students, faculty, and industry leaders. Several students connected with representatives from the USDA Forest Service and gained insights into applying for government jobs. Eady also learned about the differences between several regions within the organization.
“Having interned with the Florida Forest Service last summer, I was able to compare that with what a federal career would look like. The representatives thoughtfully answered many questions I had about my future career, and what a developing career with a federal agency would look like. In addition to this, I was able to spend time with their HR department learning how to curate my USAJobs profile and perfect a federal resume,” said Eady.
Additionally, five UF students competed in the Quiz Bowl tournament during the conference. Michael Banks, Taylor Dykes and Marina McGonigle joined Ball and Henderson to compete against 31 other teams. The team displayed excellent collaboration efforts and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“The conference provided a comprehensive understanding of the forestry community’s diversity and the significant role we all play in the conservation of forest lands. I left the convention with a stronger sense of connection to the forestry profession and a deep appreciation for the current professionals driving innovation and positive change,” said Mitchell.
The VP Promise offers financial support to students engaging in experiential learning opportunities within agriculture, natural resources and related sciences. CALS is dedicated to fostering student development and success, encouraging students to expand their horizons through participation in study abroad programs, leadership roles, scholarly conferences, and other enriching experiences.
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