Changing with the times: The Future of Forestry Degrees?

IMG_2324Our forestry program at Cal Poly, along with many other programs nationwide, is looking to the future and working to identify programatic changes that will support the ever-evolving industry while also engaging the students these industries will be dependent upon in the future. Forestry programs have seen diminishing enrollments over the last few decades despite the ample job opportunities available to graduates. So, what gives? Well, cultural, social, and political drivers along with an increased understanding of ecosystem dynamics is challenging forestry programs to be innovative and to alter the structure of the curriculum.

At Cal Poly, we are working to identify the drivers of student interest and hoping to make changes based on these interests. Please help us make progress and positive change by participating in this survey:

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From the Field to the Hill: ESA Graduate Student Policy Award Congressional Visit Day

Left: Caitlin in Peru (photo credit Jess Goldman), Right: Caitlin on the Hill with the Massachusetts-Colorado BESC pack (Left to Right: Paul Tanger, Rebecca Certner, Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, Jennifer Rood; photo credit Julie Palakovich Carr)

Left: Caitlin in Peru (photo credit Jess Goldman), Right: Caitlin on the Hill with the Massachusetts-Colorado BESC pack (Left to Right: Paul Tanger, Rebecca Certner, Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, Jennifer Rood; photo credit Julie Palakovich Carr)

By Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie

In April, I had the honor of visiting the Congressional offices of my home state Massachusetts to lobby on behalf of science funding.  I spent Monday morning tromping between snow drifts off the coast of Maine, but by Tuesday evening I was wandering under cherry blossoms along Washington DC’s tidal basin in a T-shirt.  I was a week into my field season monitoring flowering phenology in Acadia National Park, but I had traded my down jacket and LL Bean boots for a pencil skirt and pumps, hopped on a tiny eight-seated Cessna at the Bar Harbor airport, and flown to Washington DC as an Ecological Society of America (ESA) Graduate Student Policy Award recipient. Continue reading

A Graduate Student’s Guide to Necessary Skills for Landing a Job


By Helen Bothwell

Many of our readers and contributing early career ecologists are at that point in their careers where they are transitioning from graduate school life to that thing we have been working towards for so long – a job!  For those of you who have jumped that hurdle and successfully landed positions, I welcome your advice and suggestions from the trenches on this topic.

In a recent publication in Conservation Biology, Blickley et al. (2012) presented a “Graduate student’s guide to necessary skills for nonacademic conservation careers.”  While they focused on conservation jobs, their findings are broadly applicable to students preparing for numerous careers in the sciences.  At the heart of their study is the notion that graduate coursework and thesis or dissertation research don’t necessarily translate into skill sets essential for the job market.  A well-respected scientist once told me that a graduate degree is kind of the booby prize.  To be competitive in the job market, there are many additional skills we need to be developing beyond the minimum requirements of a graduate degree.

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Climate Change Series– It’s a wrap!

By Kristin Marshall, Sarah Bisbing, and Mike SanClements

A quick review and wrap-up on our climate change series.  We hope we’ve provided you all with some new information and resources and convinced at least a few of you to put global climate change on your radar. In case you missed one of the posts, here are the links to all of them:

Part 1 – Climate Change for Beginners: the Uninformed, the Skeptics, and the Deniers

Part 2 – Climate Change Silence: Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

Part 3 – Winning Over the Climate Change Skeptics

Part 4 – Unconvinced that climate change action demands immediate action? Think again!
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Unconvinced that climate change demands immediate action? Think again!

Climate Change for Beginners: Convincing the Deniers (Part 4 of 4 )

By Mike SanClements

Over the last day or so, Sarah and Kristin have done a wonderful job discussing the science behind climate change and arguments for winning over climate skeptics. And if we’re doing our job well, maybe we’ve convinced you of the science. But perhaps you’re still unconvinced that climate change is a big enough problem to require any action.

These days, most of us have become extremely disconnected from our climate. And even though I think about climate change on a daily basis at work, it only takes a minute of reflection to see how easily it might fall from your mind if you didn’t. We all have our daily lives to live, work to do, and problems to deal with, making the idea of upending our comfy status quo seem unthinkable (or at least like some abstract future thing).

When society does seem to voice worry about our climate it’s often met with the argument that addressing climate change will destroy the economy. A silly argument, because the economy exists within the environment and is already feeling the effects of climate change. Continue reading

Climate Change Silence: Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

Sperry Glacier (Glacier National Park, Motana) repeat photography shows the glacier’s recession between 1913 (credit: W.C. Alden) and 2012 (credit: Lisa McKeon). Photos are part of the USGS Repeat Photography Project (

Climate Change for Beginners: Addressing the Uninformed (Part 2 of 4 )

By Sarah Bisbing

Despite ample evidence supporting the occurrence of global climate change, the consequences and risks associated with this change are seldom the topic of dialogue in classrooms, amongst communities, or even between those determining the fate of scientific policy (ahem, presidential candidates). This incredibly relevant, world-altering topic thus remains poorly understood and seemingly irrelevant in day-to-day life.

Americans, nevertheless, stand firm on their position in the divisive battle over the existence of climate change – a topic so infrequently on our radar that we actually lack the knowledge required to take a educated stance (or make an informed decision). A Yale University climate change literacy assessment concluded that over 50% of the American public would receive an ‘F’ (an F !!!) for their climate literacy, while only 1% has knowledge equivalent to an ‘A.’

Ummm, does anyone else see this as a problem?

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Climate Change Adaptation: Facing Reality

By Morgan Fuller

As a scientist, when it comes to climate change, I don’t ask “are we causing this?” but rather “what can we do to mitigate and adapt?”  Unfortunately, environmental issues have become highly politicized, with views based upon party lines and ideology rather than fact. I’m sure everyone has heard the debates on TV and laughed at Fox News, but I get the feeling that most people in science and academia rarely come into direct contact with extreme climate change deniers.  I, however, am on the front lines.  The majority of my extended family does not believe climate change is occurring, and knowing that I am studying environmental science, purposely pick fights with me on a regular basis.  Fights that I cannot win because I don’t yell loud enough.  What concerns me is this—regardless of your beliefs, political or otherwise, our climate is changing. Continue reading