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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

Bob Heyd
Forest Entomologist
Forest Health Specialist
DNR, Marquette

Forestry is a relatively young science in the Lake States. Insects and diseases which are native to Michigan influence the forest differently as the forest grows older, succeeds to different mixtures of trees, and climate extremes such as droughts and warming trends change the playing field. We continue to import exotic insects, diseases, and plants, some of which greatly influence the function and appearance of forest ecosystems. Well known examples include Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight, beech bark disease, the emerald ash borer, sudden oak death, and the gypsy moth. Exotic plant species such as purple loosestrife, spotted knapweed, garlic mustard, and buckthorn are examples of exotic plants that can disrupt native ecosystems.

During the growing, or bug season, I keep busy answering daily inquires like: "What's killing (or feeding on) my tree?" or "What bug is this?" Answering these questions serves many purposes. Understanding that a condition or pest is not damaging is as important as knowing what to do about serious pests. Knowing that an insect isn't really harmful creates peace of mind, improves environmental awareness, saves the caller the expense of treatment, and eliminates (or at least reduces) the unnecessary use of pesticides.

I spend time flying over the forests looking for problems like defoliation, discolored leaves, and tree mortality. I spend time evaluating the seriousness of problems detected from the air or reported by forest resource managers and the public.

When not surveying Michigan's forests or evaluating the impact of a current pest situation, I work with state, federal, private, and industrial resource managers. Helping natural resource managers recognize and manage current and long-term forest health problems is an important part of the job. News releases, reports, and a Forest Health Website are used to inform and educate professionals and the public. Understanding the impacts of pests and other stressors help resource managers make short-term and long-range plans for the sustainable uses of the forest.

We also monitor the long-term health of Michigan's forest resource by using a network of permanent plots. This helps to detect more subtle changes in forest condition, growth and productivity.

Lastly, monitoring the health of Michigan's forest has been and continues to be greatly enhanced by advances in computer-aided data analysis, navigation, mapping, and image processing technologies. So, as in many professions these days, there is a vital place for the application and advancement of technology.




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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 30 June, 2006