Seeing Climate Challenges in Europe Firsthand Inspires Urban Forestry Students

Touring Europe during one of the worst heat waves ever to hit the continent was both challenging and inspiring for the UBC Faculty of Forestry’s Master of Urban Forestry Leadership (MUFL) student group who went there in the summer of 2022 as part of their professional program.

Program Director Sara Barron vividly recalls the sobering reality of seeing the impact of climate change in countries like Italy, where drought was so apparent in places with legendary waterways like the River Po experiencing historical lows.

“We can lecture about these places but being there in person is infinitely more enriching,” says Barron who was one of the group’s guides and trip planning coordinator.

MUFL Europe Trip Includes Germany & Italy

Barron explains students who took part in the busy one-week tour covering Germany and Italy took full advantage of the trip’s many valuable experiential-learning opportunities. As they toured some of the world’s best examples of developed urban green space, they were commenting on everything from the amount of green vegetation accessible to all parts of urban populations to whether or not the deliberate positioning of urban trees factored in enough soil space to support root growth.

MUFL students walking together through a thick forest
MUFL students walking through the streets of Italy

World-Class Urban Forestry Design Examples

Among the places visited during the trip was the world-renowned University of Padova which is the world’s fifth oldest surviving university – celebrating its 800th year in existence this year.  Another was Freiburg in Germany a city that sits outside the Black Forest and has won numerous awards for its advanced environmental practices. The group even participated in a public art walk in Bosco Nordio – an ancient protected natural reserve that is located along Italy’s northeastern Venetian coast and overlooks the Adriatic Sea.

“By seeing world-class examples of pristine natural settings and urban forestry up close, students had an opportunity to reflect on these examples and consider incorporating these designs into their future careers.”

Recent MUFL graduate Taylor Melone, who works full-time as a certified arborist with Up With Trees in Tulsa, Oklahoma, says the trip was something she will remember for a lifetime.

“I couldn’t believe what we were exposed to and what we got to do,” says Melone. “It just made the whole learning experience that much more inspired and motivating, and I am able to draw on everything we saw firsthand in my day-to-day work.”

MUFL students talking while walking through garden

Just like the other professional Master’s programs at UBC Forestry, the MUFL cohort can participate in an international tour of urban forestry destinations that can enhance the learning experience and foster community for an online cohort exponentially, says Barron.

Next year the hope is to plan another international overseas tour in May 2023 to Germany and the Netherlands.

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