To develop and manage forests by determining what to grow, where to grow it, how long to keep it and when to cut it.
Like their counterparts, the urban foresters, silviculturists devote their careers to the cultivation and care of forests. While urban foresters focus on single tree specimens, silviculturists look at stands of trees between 10 and 30 acres and determine the volume for commercial output taking into account the factors of disease, soil, water, climate and different species.
Currently, opportunities for silviculturists on public forests are scarce as budgets for agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service continue to be cut back. Private industry, such as large companies that own forest land, employs silviculturists to manage the land and preserve the integrity of the forest.
Silviculturists need a minimum of a four-year degree from an approved forestry program. Those fortunate enough to be hired by the U.S. Forest Service also receive additional training equivalent to a Master's Degree.
"To enjoy this career, you need to like working in the woods with maps and compasses," said Cathy Roach, the only silviculturist working on Sequoia National Forest. Roach spends much of her time working alone and also works on teams with wildlife biologists, fuel specialists and economists as they work to determine the long-term effects of different forest projects.
Recent advances in technology and computer software development have meant sweeping changes in the way silviculturists conduct their work. Initially, Roach conducts sample inventories of ecosystems found in a stand of trees being studied. That information is then compiled into a computer data base for analysis.
Using the new GIS (Geographic Information Systems), Roach integrates the information from several data bases to create maps that allow her to project the different layers of the ecosystem, such as streams, vegetation and roads, to determine how they interact with one another. Computers also allow Roach to conduct forest modeling. Using a program similar to the Sim City computer game, Roach is able to simulate and project the effects of different management strategies on a particular stand of trees in the forest.
Roach is using this approach in her work on Alta Sierra, California, a small community in the Greenhorn Mountains situated inside Sequoia National Forest. Located in an area that has regularly experienced catastrophic wildfires that consume more than 25,000 acres, the community, which has not burned since 1910, has been a focal point for fire prevention efforts by Roach and other members of the U.S. Forest Service.
Through her work and use of computer modeling, Roach has helped design a prevention program to reduce the chances of tragedy in the small community and perhaps alter the pattern of wildfires in the area.
Requires: 4 year degree plus experience and computer skills.