Each week, SFRC highlights a fantastic student or alumnus for #FeaturedStudentFriday. Today’s feature is Ludie Bond, who is both an alum and a current student! Ludie earned her BS from the UF School of Journalism and Communications, an MS from SFRC, and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Forest Resources and Conservation, advised by Dr. Rae Crandall. Ludie is the Wildfire Mitigation Specialist/Public Information Officer for the Florida Forest Service, based at the Waccasassa Forestry Center.
“After completing my undergraduate degree in Public Relations in 1985, I worked in healthcare as a marketing and public relations professional. But when I reached my 30s, I decided it was time for a career change. That’s when forestry got my attention and I decided to return to UF in 2002 to pursue a master’s degree.
While earning my master’s degree in Forestry, I focused on Wildland Urban Interface Issues. That helped to prepare me for my new career as a Wildfire Mitigation Specialist/Public Information Officer with the Florida Forest Service (FFS). I was fortunate to have Dr. Alan Long as my advisor during my time as a grad student at SFRC. Under his direction I co-authored ‘Wildfire Risk Assessment Guide for Homeowners in the Southern United States.’ I was then able to ‘marry’ my public relations degree and my forestry degree to achieve my goal of practicing public relations for forestry.
I’ve been with FFS for 17 years now. My work as a Wildfire Public Information Officer (PIO) has afforded me opportunities to acquire the training and experience to achieve Type 1 PIO status. I would venture to say that there are less than 100 Type 1 Wildfire PIOs in the United States. Type 1 is the highest level of certification for a National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) qualified position in the Incident Command System (ICS). I work with local, state, regional, national, and sometimes international media on wildfire incidents. I’ve spent the last 15-plus years deploying out west every summer to work on federal wildfire assignments. My deployment orders typically send me to one of our many beautiful national forests or national parks to work on some of the top priority wildfire incidents in our nation. As a result, I have seen some of the most amazing sites in some of the most beautiful areas of our country. And I’ve met some pretty amazing people. I will borrow a quote from a U.S. Forest Service YouTube video titled ‘The Heart of a Firefighter’ made a few years ago, “Our job is better than your best vacation.” And I truly believe that!
My position with FFS is not just what I do, it’s who I am. I’m very passionate about my work. I am afforded the opportunity to educate the public about prescribed burning, wildfires, wildfire prevention, and how to prepare for wildfires.
Sometimes I describe my job as a Story Teller. I have the opportunity to tell various audiences about the great work that is accomplished by the men and women of the Florida Forest Service and of the wildland fire family.
I feel that I am a strong and positive role model for my 3 wonderful daughters. I’ve taught them and demonstrated to them that you can set any goal you want for your life and that you can achieve whatever you put your mind, heart, and soul into.
Now I’m pursuing my doctorate degree in the hopes of continuing that communication and teaching future generations of natural resource professionals about the importance of community outreach and engagement. Maybe I’ll teach. But I know I’ll continue to go out west every summer on wildfire assignments as long as I am able. Working with 2500-3000 wildfire professionals for 2-3 weeks in an Incident Command Post camp on a wildfire incident is an amazing re-charge for your batteries.
My advice to students just starting out is the same advice I give to my daughters, two of whom are still in college. Follow your passion! I can’t stress that enough. If you love what you do, and you have a passion for it, you will never work a day in your life. It sounds cliché, but I’m living proof that it’s true.”