A Day In the Life
of A Forester
A Sampling of Real Michigan Foresters and the Wide Diversity of Career Paths
I received a degree in Professional Forestry from MSU in 1996. Although I have been employed as a field forester in the past, my current position is that of the Park Interpreter at Hartwick Pines State Park (HPSP).
The requirements of my job vary with the seasons but basically I am in charge of the day to day operations of the Michigan Forest Visitor Center and the natural resource interpretation of the park. Below is an example of what I do throughout the year, if you were to break down the year into seasons.
Spring & Fall: My staff and I provide school programs to elementary schools from all over Michigan (middle and high school levels too). The training and instruction of summer interpreters is done in the spring.
Summer: When the camping season gets underway, I provide visitors and campers with natural resource-based educational programs as well as tours of the Old Growth Forest Foot Trail. The subject matter of the campground programs will vary but the topic will most likely be about some species of animal that utilizes Michigan's forests. The trail tours focus on the 49 acres of Old Growth Pine Forest and other forest types found at the Park. This is also the time of year where we have our weekend-long events: Black Iron Days, Wood Shaving Days, and Forest Fest.
Winter: Winter programs such as cross-country skiing by lantern light and guided snowshoe hikes are offered throughout the winter months. Exhibit Hall displays and program revisions are done during the winter as well.
This is a typical summer day at the Park:
8:00-11:00 am I arrive at the Visitor Center. We offer three tours during the day. Before the first tour, I try to finish my office work. I check emails, return messages, check the weather (important with outdoor programs), and review the day's agenda with my staff.
11:00am-12:30pm I provide a tour of the Old Growth Trail. Along the trail we pass through several forest types; and at each one I stop and discuss some points regarding wildlife habitat, plant life, forest products, or other such topics. I try to answer questions. If I don't have the answer, I take down their name and address at the end of the tour, find the answer, and get to back to them promptly. Throughout the year, the wildlife observed, the flowers that are in bloom, and the development stages of the trees constantly change. Therefore, it is important to know what kinds of changes are occurring along the Old Growth Trail. This takes research and in many cases carrying a field guide along with me during the tour makes answering questions from visitors much easier.
12:30-1:00pm Lunchtime! As a rule, I don't take the entire half hour. If I do, I'm normally researching some subject or discussing natural resources with other staff members.
1:00pm-3:30pm While other interpreters are guiding a tour, I may take care of the front desk duties. I answer visitor questions about Hartwick Pines, wildlife habits, and camping reservations. I may answer phone calls, greet visitors, run a movie in our auditorium, schedule school programs, or work on a campground program. Time permitting, one of the most interesting and rewarding things is to design a new display for our display cubes. In the Visitor Center basement, we have lockers that are full of animals that have been mounted by a taxidermist as well as furs from dozens of species of animals. I can choose one or more animals and fit them into a theme. For example, a mouse and an owl can show a predator/prey relationship. A few brightly-colored birds can show how the male plumage is generally more vibrant than the female. A bobcat and red fox can show the difference between feline and canine features. Research must be done; and labels written and printed. When I can, I explore some of the more remote area of the Park, nearly 10,000 acres.
3:30pm-4:30pm With an hour left to go, I check my daily planner for paperwork that needs to be done. Budgeting, ordering supplies, filing, reports, responding to messages, and trips to the Post Office or hardware store are common activities.
One of the greatest things about my job is that no two days are ever the same: different activities, weather conditions, and visitors all make for new experiences. Working in a building located in the middle of a forest also has its advantages. Severe weather can alter the Old Growth Forest and it's always exciting to see what affect "Mother Nature" has on our forestland. The opportunity to observe wildlife foraging for food and water on a daily basis is a bonus as well. Finally, the visitors are an enjoyable part of my job. For the most part, folks who are on vacation are in a good mood and that makes talking with them a real pleasure.
TOP Press arrow to return to the top of this page.
Michigan SAF Home Page
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 8 May, 2006