Meridith Perkins, Urban Forestry Coordinator
Loving our jobs!

Trees and forests are an important part of our urban environment too.

Name and position

Meridith Perkins, Urban & Community Forestry Coordinator, Division of Forestry Fire & State Lands (UCF, FFSL after your name is way more impressive than just PHD.)

Megan Blackwelder
Working with both people and trees is an enjoyable part of being an urban forester.

What do you do?

I manage the Statewide Urban & Community Forestry (UCF) program for the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. Most people don't put "urban" and "forestry" together in the same sentence, but everyone is familiar with urban and community forests. These are the forests where people live, work and play; the park trees that provide shade for our picnic tables and the street trees that define our downtown business district. As the UCF program coordinator I help establish, protect and manage the urban forest resource in cities and towns across the State. In addition to this, I also work with communities to celebrate Arbor Day, plan our State Arbor Day celebration and facilitate the statewide Arbor Day poster contest. Finally I manage the Utah Big Tree and Heritage Tree Registers and get to track down and measure some of coolest trees in the State.

This job keeps me on my toes. One day I may be giving a presentation on tree pruning techniques to a group of tree board members, the next I am meeting with a group of county officials to plan a green infrastructure plan, then I'm out doing a tree inventory in a park, and back to the office to play philanthropist — managing a grant program to fund great urban forestry projects.

The Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has many other forestry-related career paths. Other foresters in the agency work with insect and disease issues, help landowners manage their forested acreages, or work in wildfire prevention. Another great benefit to my job is that I get to help out on projects and get diverse experience in all aspects of the division. I've had opportunities to hunt bark beetles and fight wildfire.

I love my forestry job because I feel like I am making a real difference and having fun along the way!

What kind of education is required?

To be a forester for the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands you need a bachelor's degree in forestry, or a related field. Classes in math, sciences, chemistry, computer mapping and natural resources are important for foresters; urban foresters also need strong written and verbal skills, confidence in public speaking and familiarity with grant writing.

What would you suggest to people considering a career in forestry?

Go for it! If you are one of those people who looks up when your hiking, tries to identify leaves and pine cones, volunteers to plant seedlings or just finds peace under the shade of a tree, you have the potential to be a great forester. There are so many amazing careers in Forestry that can cater to your specific interest and skill sets. Consider applying for a seasonal position with the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands or working in your city's Park's Department to get some experience. The bottom line to any successful career is to love what you're doing. And really, who doesn't love trees?

Why did you become a forester?

I grew up in a big city and didn't know anything about trees, but I was drawn to the parks and green spaces in my neighborhood. When I was choosing what to study in college, I decided to learn about something I had never had the opportunity to discover on my own — forestry. Initially I wanted to be a forest ranger and work in a remote forest in a fire tower or as a back country ranger, but as I learned the diverse career possibilities within the forestry profession, I found my niche in urban forestry. As an urban forestry coordinator I get to work with my two favorite things: trees and people. I really get the best of both worlds, city living coupled with working in nature!

 

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