Carla, 30, is the Executive Director of the Ontario Forestry Association. She has a bachelor's of science degree in forestry and environmental management from the University of New Brunswick.
Stephanie: What exactly do you do as a forestry professional?
Carla: I am the Executive Director of the Ontario Forestry Association (OFA), a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to awareness and understanding of Ontario’s forests.
I work with private landowners, school groups and the public. The OFA is a diverse group of forest owners, forestry professionals, government and industry representatives from across Ontario.
As Director of the OFA, I provide input to public policy affecting the forest industry and privately-owned forests.
Stephanie: Is this something that you continually have to take schooling for?
Carla: The amount of extended schooling depends on the position you take. Continuing education is a common element to many professions these days, as technology and policy are constantly changing.
The Ontario Professional Foresters Association is responsible for the regulation of the practice of professional forestry in Ontario. The OPFA has a continuing education program requiring its members to remain informed and current with respect to the practice of forestry in Ontario.
Many people may think that forestry doesn't involve a lot of technology, but there are great opportunities available for people with an interest in computers and GIS technology.
Stephanie: What should a person do if they want to become a forestry professional?
Carla: I suggest that someone with an interest in forestry should contact the Ontario Forestry Association or visit our Web site to obtain a copy of the Forest Careers Awareness Package. The package contains detailed descriptions of a range of career options in forestry, a complete listing of schools offering the bachelor of science in forestry, bachelor of forest engineering, and a wide range of college programs.
Another resource available from the OFA is a database of forestry professionals who have volunteered to be contacted by young people interested in learning more about the field of forestry. Anyone with an interest in encouraged to call any of these professionals to ask questions about the profession.
Stephanie: How did you get started in the field?
Carla: I grew up in a family that owned a large woodlot in New Brunswick. I spent most weekends of my childhood walking in the forest with my grandfather. He had worked in the woods for many years and had a tremendous understanding of forest ecosystems and how everything was linked together - how the removal of one tree from the forest had a great affect on everything around it. This is how he determined which trees were ready to be harvested and what trees had the best chance of replacing the fallen tree in the forest canopy. My interest was peaked at a very young age, and as I grew older it seemed that forestry was a profession that has a deep impact on lives of everyone - we all use forest products everyday rarely thinking about the forests they originated in and the care that was taken to protect those forests.
Stephanie: What do you like about what you do?
Carla: I really enjoy working for a non-profit organization; it is a unique experience that enables you to really have an effect and help people.
I get to travel extensively across Ontario and I always meet wonderful and interesting people. My colleagues in forestry are dedicated professionals who care more about what they do than about how big their paycheck is at the end of the week.
I am able to help people learn and do a better job at managing their forests. I believe that private forest owners are an underappreciated part of the Canadian identity. These people invest their own time and money to ensure that there will be forests around for future generations.
I am also grateful for the opportunity to represent important forestry issues to all levels of government and help educate the public and youth about Ontario's forests.
Stephanie: What is your least favourite part of the job?
Carla: I do not have a lot to complain about, but if there was one thing, it would be the low importance that the general public places on our forest resources and the effort and care that goes into sustaining forests for future generations. We spend a lot of time informing the public about the importance of our forests and the forest industry.
Stephanie: What advice do you have for someone considering working in the industry?
Carla: I would encourage them to explore the career opportunities that exist in forestry.
I have one of the more non-traditional jobs, living in Toronto. There are foresters working in major cities, in the far remote areas of Canada, and all the places in between.
There is a vast number of opportunities for a rewarding career as a forestry professional, and both government and industry have identified a real need for more young people to enter into forestry. The opportunities are there for the taking and the jobs are diverse, challenging and very rewarding.
Stephanie: What kind of an education do you need to be a forestry professional?
Carla: I attended the University of New Brunswick where I obtained a bachelor of science in forestry and environmental management. The University of New Brunswick also offers a forest engineering program.
There are many schools across Canada that offer forestry undergraduate and graduate programs that will enable you to become a Registered Professional Forester. There is also a vast number of college and technical programs that offer challenging and exciting programs in forestry.
Stephanie: What is your favourite tree or plant, and why?
Carla: My favorite tree is the yellow birch. It is a beautiful tree with golden bark that grows to be very old and majestic. You will often see large yellow birch trees reaching the highest levels of the forest canopy. To me, they seem like very wise old beings that have seen many things come and go under the shade of their branches. I also like yellow birch because when they are young enough that you can reach the smallest branches, you can cut the young twigs and they smell like wintergreen.
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