Now works as: Outreach Adviser - North of England
Now works for: Woodland Trust
Trees and woods have always held a particular sway over me in my imagination and interest. After graduating with an Ecology undergraduate degree from Bangor, I started work in nature conservation, but quickly followed this passion into the forestry and arboriculture sector. After about five years of working for organisations in mostly practical roles, I wanted to build on this experience with an academic underpinning of Forestry. I wasn’t particularly set on returning to Bangor because of my previous study there; I just did my research, and it looked like the best choice for study alongside my work with a broad range of modules, and so I began the distance-learning MSc Forestry course in 2014.
Learning current knowledge in a myriad of forestry issues (from ‘technical’ aspects like silviculture and inventory techniques to the context of forestry policy, social issues, and underpinning ecosystem processes) not only improved my ability to do my job, but also demonstrated greater understanding to prospective employers. I don’t doubt that studying the MSc helped me gain a role mid-way through the course as a Woodland Area Ranger at the National Trust, where I was responsible for preparing woodland management plans, organising forestry work, and managing trees across a large portfolio.
Within this role I applied the alternative silvicultural systems I had learned on the MSc, undertook mensuration as we had been taught on field courses, and applied understanding of non-timber forest products and the huge variety of interactions between people and woodlands that the MSc had exposed me to. Just as important was the improvement in my critical thinking skills from the days of being an undergraduate, and the ability to research and question if practices needed updating.
In 2020, I moved on to an even more sylvan-focussed organisation, the Woodland Trust, as a Woodland Outreach Adviser. This involves advising external organisations and private landowners on best practice management of ancient woodlands, often sensitive restoration of Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS), as well as helping landowners undertake woodland creation. The MSc gave me the underpinning context of the forestry policies that led us to PAWS, and subsequently drives PAWS restoration. It also means that I have a greater understanding of the suite of silvicultural options that can be used and the ecological functioning to be protected, which are invaluable in considering the most sensitive approach to these centuries-old ecosystems.
Undertaking the distance-learning MSc Forestry was no small undertaking – three years of hard work after the day job, and watching summer weekend days go by from a desk – but I have no regrets. It has definitely helped my career, but more importantly, I learnt a huge deal more about what has always been a passion more than a vocation. It opened up new avenues of interest that I have continued to research, gave me a more rounded understanding of forests that I had only dipped into previously, and helped me develop as a person in terms of critical thinking.
Now, I am able to go out into the woods for ‘shinrin-yoku’ at the weekends without hitting the books and journals, so am catching up on that small compromise made during the three years of study. It was completely worth it, not only to have the achievement of the MSc, but also to have a greater understanding of the woodlands around us.