Meet Our Interns

The Forest Stewards Guild is excited to welcome three stellar interns to our Lake States and Southwest offices.  Dunbar Carpenter, Leonora Pepper, and Russell Lipe are growing their careers in forest stewardship through the Guild.  

Dunbar Carpenter, University of Wisconsin-Madison

I first became interested in environmental science after moving from my home state of Oregon out to Massachusetts for college, where I expected to be living in an almost completely urbanized setting. Though I missed the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest, I also learned that New England has its own vast tracts of beautiful forest, with many wonderful places that its people want to restore and conserve. Being science-minded and curious about the natural world, I gravitated towards studying ecology. I spent several summers at the Harvard Forest learning about vegetation ecology and the history of New England’s forest landscapes. This led me to go to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I studied forest ecology and conducted research on the effects of climate change on forest ecosystems. Wanting to return west, I moved to Albuquerque where I spent the past two years studying the recovery of southwestern forests following wildfires with colleagues at the University of New Mexico.

My interest in the environment and extends beyond just how ecosystems work, also encompassing how people use and interact with the ecosystems in which we live. Working with the Forest Stewards Guild is a great opportunity for me to transition from my focus on ecological research towards the application of this science in natural resource management and planning. I have been impressed with the diversity of sustainable forestry projects with which the Guild is engaged, ranging from wildfire risk reduction, to local economic development, to forest restoration, and I’m excited to be involved with many of these endeavors. In particular, I have been assisting with the Forest Stewards Youth Corps program, as well conducting monitoring for several of the Guild’s Collaborative Forest Restoration Projects. I will also be assisting with a study on potential markets for certified wood sourced from National Forests, and with the revision of the Rio Arriba County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

From here I can see my career in environmental science going in one of two directions. One would be following a more traditional natural resource management path, working for a government agency or non-profit to facilitate sustainable forest management activities using the best available science. Alternatively, I am interested in entering a planning and design profession, where ecological science can be applied towards better mediating interactions between people and their environment in both urban and rural settings. In either case, working for the Forest Stewards Guild has been a great way for me to learn about and contribute to the development of socioecological resilience in forest communities, and will be a valuable experience in my future career.

 

Leonora Pepper, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

I grew up in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, but spent all of my childhood summers in the forests of Connecticut and Maine. As I developed a deep love of the woods, I was also unknowingly growing up immersed in the physical and ecological legacies of New England’s agrarian history, from stone walls and old wells to wolf sugar maples interspersed in the woodlands. Today, these early impressions reinforce the ways I understand both land use history and the long-lived repercussions of management decisions on forest landscapes.

Prior to studying forestry, my work in agriculture and community development in diverse landscapes from Mexico to Rwanda impressed upon me the multiple uses and competing demands so often exacted on human-dominated forest landscapes. In particular, I had the opportunity in 2015 to spend nine months through the Fulbright Program researching traditional açaí production in the Amazon estuary region of Brazil. While the growing market for this floodplain forest crop has been a boon to families in river communities across the estuary, other regional pressures include clearing for timber and cattle pasture, encroaching oil palm plantations, and the premium placed on environmental services. This specific backdrop is but one example of the overlap of competing use considerations universal to human-dominated landscapes.

Upon my return from Brazil, my studies at Yale inspired me to bring these perspectives back to the forests of the U.S., especially to the American West where longer and hotter seasons, an expanding Wildland Urban Interface, and a long history of fire suppression have made sound landscape management paramount. In this context, I am excited to work in collaboration with the people and communities of New Mexico that draw from forestland for everything from firewood to recreation, with the aim of building ecological resilience and promoting landscape restoration.

This summer, as a Community Forestry Intern at the Forest Stewards Guild, I will be helping to support the Forest Stewards Youth Corps crews in their training and work in natural resource management in New Mexico’s forests. My work will also include conducting ecological monitoring fieldwork for ongoing Collaborative Forest Restoration Project grant implementation. As part of the Forest Stewards Guild’s work to promote wildfire safety and awareness, I will also be assisting with revisions to select Community Wildfire Protection Plans.

As I build my career in forestry, my hope is to continue to work as a land manager in a capacity that allows me to build landscape resilience and foster education around forest ecology. I am very excited about the possibility of working for a federal land management agency in the stewardship of public lands. I have learned that working in the field of forestry draws on a rich range of skills and areas of knowledge: everything from forest health, to how to actively engage landowners, to the creativity needed to envision a regenerating forest 50 years out. I continue to be thrilled to be a part of this field and hope, through my work, to contribute to the responsible and creative management of our forests.

 

Russell Lipe, Michigan Technological University

What inspired me to pursue studies in natural resources? I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid. Most summers, I would attend nature camp, and I quickly developed a fondness for exploring and learning as much as I could. I never thought of natural resources as a career path, though, until a year into college. I didn’t really like the coursework of my original path and was looking for something that would fit me better. I was really interested in animals and found the Wildlife Ecology major at Michigan Tech. I decided to give it a shot and loved the forestry courses so much that I added it as a second major. I liked the idea of being able to help maintain natural parts of the landscape, so everyone can continue to enjoy them, like I have.

This summer, I have been helping the Forest Guild to inventory and write a Forest Stewardship Plan for their properties in Houghton County, Michigan. There are seven parcels covering just over 400 total acres. I have been working with Green Timber Consulting Foresters, who have been guiding me through the data collection and synthesis, as well as plan writing. This project provides me with valuable experience in field work and management plan writing, and will provide educational opportunities for other students at Michigan Tech.

I haven’t quite decided what aspect of the natural resources field I’d like to pick for my career. After spending some time with Green Timber though, I really like the consulting forestry side of things. I think it provides great opportunities to help smaller landowners manage their forest appropriately and sustainably, especially when they might not know how to otherwise.