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A Day In the Life of A Forester
A Sampling of Real Michigan Foresters and the Wide Diversity of Career Paths

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Jim Ferris
DNR, Marquette

I’m a silviculturist. That means someone who specializes in the care and culture of trees. In the DNR, that means someone who deals with caring for and growing trees in forested environments. The job can generally be divided into these three main focus areas.

1. Regenerating the forest
2. Tending the forest as it grows to maturity
3. Harvesting trees and products from the forest.

Within each of these three categories I plan for activities that will achieve our objectives. I make sure that the plans are carried out. I monitor the results of carrying out the plans and then I am involved in evaluating and changing our plans for the future.

Regenerating the forest. The forest starts with a concern for tree seedlings – baby trees. A silviculturist’s job assures that new trees are grown so that the forest will go on indefinitely. This means that before the forest is harvested we must plan for the next generation of trees. That way we’ll never run out of forests. Since different kinds of forests start in different ways the silviculturist must know how each forest type grows and what is needed to start new trees growing. Sometimes this means planting little seedlings in specially prepared sites. Other times it means making sure there are good conditions that will favor new seedlings which start naturally from seed or sprouts already in the forest.

Tending the forest. Tending follows regenerating the forest. After seedlings are well established, they need to be looked after to be sure they are healthy and have a good chance of growing into mature trees. Again, the silviculturist must know what kind of conditions each type of forest needs. Some days we’re working to make sure there is not too much shade over the young trees. Other times we’re trying to create shady conditions to provide the ideal conditions for young trees that prefer growing in the shade. And yet other days we’re examining the forest looking for signs of insect or disease problems that may threaten the trees.

Harvesting useful products from the forest. After we have seen that the new forest is off to a good start, the next step is to see when they mature. Trees mature at various ages depending on the type of tree and where it is growing. As the forest grows older the trees pass their best growth period and slowly begin to decline. They grow slower. They are subject to more pest and disease problems. Eventually they will die. The job of the silviculturist is to know when the trees are approaching maturity and to plan the harvesting process before they become too old and die.




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This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Michigan State University Extension Forester in the Upper Peninsula.  Comments, questions, and suggestions are gratefully accepted. 
Last update of this page was 14 April, 2006