Meet Guild Intern, Susy Boyd

Written by Suzy Boyd

I grew up in a suburb of San Francisco where I occasionally played in a sliver of a Eucalyptus grove. The earliest hint of my future in the forest appeared after a week-long Outdoor Education experience in the redwoods. When the week was over, I was despondent but didn’t yet understand why. While working on my Master’s degree in Communications at UC Davis, I was inspired by the love of my life -- who kept disappearing to carry out forestry work in the Pacific Northwest -- to buy a forestry vest, a compass, and a clinometer and follow him into the woods. Our work was centered around the university town of Corvallis, where I stared in awe at the old brick forestry buildings of Oregon State University.

After several seasons of work as a Forestry Technician, I began working in the local park system and quickly got hired as a Ranger. This evolved into a 19-year career span. When I lost my partner to cancer, I filled this great void with the only remedy imaginable – the forest.

I was accepted into the Master of Natural Resources online program with my dream university, Oregon State.  I was drawn to international forestry, particularly in Mexico because of frequent travels there, and specifically to a rarely studied forest type, the Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest.  My interest in Mexican forestry spiked when I learned about Mexico’s remarkable sustainability rate largely attributable to their ejido system of community forestry.  Here was a model for forestry management that allowed rural communities tremendous economic independence and yielded impressive sustainability all at once.  I chose an ejido in Mexico’s Yucatan region – Ejido Noh-Bec – in the state of Quintana Roo because of its strong data records and its reputation as a national leader for sustainability.

The economic independence experienced by ejido members was matched by economic vulnerability – timber harvest profits are shared, but exclusive reliance on the forest for economic stability also means that this singular resource must remain healthy and resilient.  My research focus introduced the impending impacts of climate change on the health of the ejido’s forest.  I analyzed regional climate data and with the assistance of a regional climate scientist, analyzed future climate projections across parameters for temperature, precipitation and hurricane activity, and developed management strategies to address projected climate change impacts for the ejido’s forest.

Upon completion of my degree, I knew it was time to transition towards more scientific and academic career endeavors.  During a serendipitous ski trip to Santa Fe at the start of this year – with almost no snow – I saw the summer internship announcement for Forest Stewards Guild and applied. It just felt like an ideal fit. My previous work as a Ranger has allowed me to transfer those skills to our Youth Crew members and it is an honor to participate in the building of their future careers. In a short time, I have learned a tremendous amount about fire ecology and forest fire management, which I plan on bringing back to our equally fire risk forest system in the Sierras, where I now live outside of Yosemite National Park.  I was recently assigned the role of working on the final CFRP report for Rio Trampas. This simultaneously stretches my professional development and draws on my research skills. The concept of community based forestry as an activity within the United States has, in my opinion, just begun and I can’t think of a better launching place than the Forest Steward’s Guild.  An organization is a function of the people who work there and I have been truly impressed not just by the skills and backgrounds of my office mates here in Santa Fe, but also by their personal integrity and professionalism.  They are good people all the way around.

My future career plans likely include doctorate studies as I am in my element when conducting forward thinking and innovative solutions to forestry problems.  I was one of the rare students who was disappointed when I completed my graduate degree. I would like to continue engaging in research around forests and climate change.  This internship provides exposure to many different aspects of forestry which helps me map out future plans.  Just as the forest recovers from disturbance, so do we, and I happily share my life in the Sierras with my boyfriend Dave and our “fur kids”.