October 13, 2014

Article by:  Ben Rushakoff

Twenty-one Berkeley students made their way to Salt Lake City to attend the annual Society of American Foresters (SAF) and Canadian Institute of Forestry (CIF) Convention. Approximately 5,000 foresters and forestry-related professionals, educators, researchers, and students gathered at the Salt Palace Convention Center to share ideas, findings, and look toward the future of forestry. This convention was especially large because the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) was simultaneously holding its World Congress at the Salt Palace. Attendees of both conventions were able to listen to an overwhelming number of lectures and presentations, and were invited to participate in various workshops and poster sessions. It brought a uniquely international crowd to the SAF crowd as IUFRO for IUFRO holds its World Congress once every five years and has not been held in the United States since 1971 in Gainesville, Florida.

Students were free to attend whichever presentations interested them the most ranging from studies on forest investment in the California carbon market, to community-based agroforestry in rural Columbia, to every facet of sustainability imaginable. In addition, various Berkeley professors and graduate students presented their work and presented findings from the North American Summit on Forest Science Education held in Berkeley last spring.

A few trends became very apparent at the convention. There is a very palpable move toward bringing forestry industry, research, and education up to date with today’s technology and social media. Forestry, a broad field that joins timber companies, wildlife conservation societies, and everything in between, often gains a negative connotation because of logging and recent wildfires. To correct this negative perception surrounding an increasingly important renewable resource, forestry is transforming its curriculum to include communication and outreach skills that were previously omitted from a more technical skill-based field.

The SAF convention gave Berkeley students an opportunity to get a taste of the non-Berkeley forestry world. Hundreds of universities, non-profits, timber companies, government departments and agencies, technology and engineering companies, consulting groups and many others filled the main convention hall with informational booths. Between talks, attendees learned about all of these different angles of forestry and some students even interviewed on the spot for future jobs. Sophia Lemmo, third-year forestry student and Vice President of Forestry Club, reflected on her experiences: “It was an awesome way to get exposure to the interactions between all facets of forestry and fully realize the diversity of the field.” As students of forestry and natural resources, it is increasingly important to learn about the many stakeholders and varied interests at play in land management.

The Quiz Bowl, arguably one of the most exciting events of the week, brought together students from many universities to test their forestry knowledge. Placed on randomly arranged teams, two Berkeley forestry majors faced each other in the quarter-finals of the Quiz Bowl, and senior Julian Bauerand his team made it to the semi-finals. Berkeley students left the event proud of their accomplishments and looking toward next year’s trivia competition.

 On campus, Cal Forestry Club is the SAF Bay Area Student Chapter. Each year the club has a Christmas tree sale and raises money to send club members to the annual convention. This year, because of Berkeley’s proximity to Salt Lake City, the club was able to send an unprecedented number of members to the convention.

To learn more about the Society of American Foresters and the recent convention, visit www.saf.com. And, as the holiday season is quickly approaching, mark your calendars to help support the Cal Forestry Club (http://nature.berkeley.edu/forestryclub/) send members to next year’s convention in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by purchasing a sustainably grown and harvested Christmas tree outside of Mulford Hall on campus during the week of December 8.