From arborist with a private landscaping company to parks forester foreperson with the City of Burnaby
Born and raised in Burnaby, BC, Mark McDonald (BSc’19 (Forest Sciences), MUFL’22) was not thrilled by his high school experience. At 18 years of age, he entered the workforce, developing skills as an arborist with a private landscaping company.
Tree maintenance and care were what appealed to Mark the most. While learning the ropes as a tree climber on one contract with the City of Burnaby, Mark also got a glimpse into the local government’s work culture.
These experiences raised questions in Mark’s mind about the relationship between trees and the urban environment. Eager to learn more, Mark began researching forestry and horticulture programs, and found the right fit with UBC Forestry’s Bachelor of Science in Forest Sciences program, which offered an option to major in forest pathology.
“I find plant evolution, physiology and health issues really fascinating, especially in urban areas where trees are highly susceptible to many factors that affect their survival, including pests and diseases, often acquired through contact with people and through trade goods.”
Mark identified a need for the City of Burnaby to expand into remote sensing and geomatics applications for its tree inspection work. He saw how, like many other cities, Burnaby’s tree canopy was shrinking as the local human population grew and densified. In collaboration with architects, engineers and various other disciplines, Mark put forward nature-based and engineered solutions to create urban green spaces that are more climate resilient and sustainable, and provide ecosystem services that can benefit an increasingly diverse population of community members.
In pursuit of his goal to extend his knowledge base to better fulfill his career aspirations with the City of Burnaby, Mark juggled his studies with work. His undergraduate degree thesis project examined a type of Phytophthora water mold that is in the same genus as pathogens that caused the Irish potato famine and is responsible for sudden oak death. The water mold was found growing on red alders in Burnaby. Mark’s study on the subject – conducted under the supervision of UBC Forestry Prof. Richard Hamelin – was later published in the Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology in 2022.
Also in 2022, Mark completed a Master of Urban Forestry Leadership at UBC Forestry. The comprehensive, 14-month, online, course-based master’s program takes an interdisciplinary perspective and focuses on strategic management, decision-making and creativity. In 2023, Mark enrolled in UBC Forestry’s Climate Action and Community Engagement online micro-certificate course, which teaches students how to lead climate action and greening initiatives in their communities.
Para Space Landscaping Inc.
· Labourer – landscaping (2003-2004)
· Plant Health Care Supervisor (2004-2005) Diagnosed common plant diseases and pests and oversaw their eradication using sustainable methods.
· Landscape Maintenance Supervisor (2005-2007)
· Groundsman/Climber (2007-2008)
City of Burnaby
· Labourer 3 – Arborist (2011-2016)
· Tree Pruner (2014-2016)
· Field Arborist (2016-2022)
· Aboricultural Foreman (2022)
· Tree Inspector (2016-2023)
· Parks Forester Foreperson (Present position as of Jan. 2023)
The University of British Columbia
· Bachelor of Science (Bsc) in Forest Sciences, Forest Pathology 2019
· Master of Urban Forestry Leadership, Urban Forestry Jul 2021 – Aug 2022
· UBC Forestry’s Climate Action and Community Engagement Micro-Certificate enrolled in 2023
Learn more: Master of Urban Forestry Leadership