Sue Watts (MF’75, PhD’81) arrived at UBC Forestry 50 years ago with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from Bangor University in North Wales, where she was the only female in her graduating class. Sue was drawn to UBC Forestry for graduate work in forest entomology – more specifically, to study blood-sucking flies – becoming only the second female to receive a Master of Forestry and the first to receive a PhD in Forestry. In 1982, Sue added an RPF to her list of credentials.
Having decided to stay on with UBC Forestry as a faculty member. Sue worked under six deans and three acting deans, and edited two editions of the Forestry Handbook for British Columbia, a Forestry Undergraduate Society publication first produced in the 1950s. In the late 1980s, Sue began a new role as Assistant Dean, External Relations, and was made responsible for creating UBC Forestry’s first newsletter, Branchlines.
Branchlines was officially launched in 1989 under the leadership of then Dean Bob Kennedy. In the early days, it was a monochrome, tri-fold newsletter featuring one short research article from each of UBC Forestry’s three departments. All pre-print production was – and continues to be – handled in house. Distribution was by mail four times per year. Over time, Branchlines has continued to evolve, becoming a central communications tool for UBC Forestry that links alumni, researchers, educators and members of the public with the broad-ranging work of students and staff. Today, the print publication is distributed to over 7,000 individuals and organizations around the world twice per year.
Sue edited Branchlines for 30 years before stepping down from her administrative roles in 2019 to focus her time on mentoring and teaching communication courses to graduate students. Students and alumni may also remember seeing Sue walk the Forest Sciences Centre halls with her large chocolate Labrador at her side. She was the force behind the Dogs in the Workforce program, launched in 2016, that encouraged faculty, staff and graduate students to bring their dogs to work. Since then, over 80 dogs have been registered in the program.
Helping graduate students through her teaching and mentoring roles was something that Sue was always passionate about, and she says that this is also the hardest thing for her to step away from in retirement. However, she is quick to add that she will be happy to have more time to devote to her hobbies of perennial gardening and dog training, as well as to connect with old friends and new.
Dean Rob Kozak (BSc’88, PhD’96) says it best: “We would like to congratulate and sincerely thank Dr. Sue Watts for her 30 years of work as editor of Branchlines, probably the longest-running newsletter of any UBC faculty, and for her dedication and excellent contributions to UBC Forestry as a faculty member and lecturer. You’ve set the bar high.”
We spread our branches standing on your shoulders, Sue. Best wishes on your next adventures!
This article was originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Branhlines Magazine. View the full issue here.