Congratulations to our 2023 Best in Program Winners!

What a talented bunch! The award winners were recognized at the Silver Ring Ceremony earlier this month. We caught up with some of this year’s winners to hear about their experience at UBC Forestry, some advice for future students, and what’s next for them!

Congratulations again to all graduates! Check out photos from the Silver Ring Ceremony here.

Best in Program Winners

Johanna Griggs: Clark S. Binkley Award, Natural Resources Conservation — Science and Management Major

An Hoang: Clark S. Binkley Award, Natural Resources Conservation — Global Perspectives Major

Amanda Karaka: Gordon Baskerville Award — Forest Resources Management

Hongzheng Ma: Larre Medal — Wood Products Processing

Shining Chen: Outstanding Forest Sciences Student Award

Alex Martin: Outstanding Urban Forestry Student Award

Kyle Bishop: W. Gerry Burch Award — Forest Operations

Yuton Li: Outstanding Student in the Forest Bioeconomy Sciences and Technology Program

Lorry Mackay: Gold Medal Winner

Q. What inspired you to pursue a degree in forestry?

Johanna: “I chose Forestry for its interdisciplinary nature! I loved that I got to learn about sociology and economics in addition to biology, which is essential to a real-world understanding of the issues we study.”

Hongzheng: “I always loved manufacturing and want to pursue it as a career. I think wood is the best construction material that nature gives us. Back in China, I think this 3+2 program is a good way for me to see the world.”

Kyle: “Growing up in North Vancouver I spent a lot of time exploring outside and spending time in the forests of the north shore mountains. Through these many experiences growing up in the outdoors, I knew a job in forestry would suit me extremely well. I always wanted to be an engineer and the Forest Operations program allowed me to pursue both my engineering passions and desire to have a degree that will connect me to a job in the outdoors. Essentially, it’s through my curiosity about the natural world and how things work that I landed on this degree!”

Yuton: “I am a 3+2 student for BUCT. As soon as I heard my school has a dual degree program with UBC, I immediately sign up for this program. Not only because UBC has a top ranking in the forestry program, but also because sustainable development has become a concern worldwide. I just wanted to make an effort to a solution for sustainability issues.”

Lorry: “Originally, I was inspired to pursue a degree in Forestry because I loved recreating outdoors.  As I learned more about the world of forestry in first- & second-year courses, I knew I wanted my future career to be an application of practical sciences.  By combining these two views, I discovered that I wanted to pursue a career that revolves around applications of sustainable natural resource science.”

An: “I initially wanted to study psychology, but after I got sponsored to visit South Africa in 2017 by Wilderness Foundation Africa, my whole life changed. My passion for conservation only grew stronger when I found UBC Forestry’s NRC program. Growing up in Ho Chi Minh City, chances to visit nature are rare. I wanted to be in forestry to find ways to bring nature to people so that they can appreciate the nature around them.”

Amanda: “I had made a promise to myself to enroll in post secondary and work towards a fulfilling career. Unsure of where to start, I enrolled in an arts and sciences diploma at Langara and started taking the courses that most interested me. I’ve always been fascinated by the diversity and complexity of the ecosystems in BC, and so there was a definite theme in my selections. I also made a point of looking for the most interesting and exciting (to me) job postings and what the qualifications were. RPF and RPBio occurred frequently.”

Q. Can you talk about any research, projects or events you’ve worked on that particularly excited or interested you, and why?

Johanna: “I’ve been lucky enough to work with two separate labs in Forestry as a research assistant (Stream and Riparian Research Lab and WildCo) and discovered a passion for fieldwork and working with wildlife. Having the opportunity to work in the forests, streams and mountains across B.C. and participate in exciting research was an amazing experience and has given me a better idea of what kind of work I want to pursue in the future.”

Hongzheng: “I really enjoyed my co-op experience with West Forest Products as it allowed me to see the real-world manufacturing situation. I met a lot of good people and created strong personal bonds.”

Kyle: “For the past two summers, I’ve really enjoyed working as an undergraduate research assistant in the forest hydrology lab with Dr. Younes Alila. This has been in preparation for a master of applied science in forestry that I will be starting with Dr. Alila. I grew up fishing a lot and it is still one of my passions so I’m very curious about water and how it interacts with forested watersheds.”

Yuton: “I used to work in Dr. Feng Jiang’s lab and participate in the thermal insulation cellulose-based foam project. The idea is to fabricate high-performance fire-retardant thermal insulation foam materials as non-structural engineered wood products using forest residual. I find it interesting because it can turn waste into useful material, and it can be really put into practice and make a difference.”

Lorry: “I assisted on a research project aiming to investigate how/why loggers fail to recognize hazards and the science that explains how they look but fail to see or identify risks in the field.  The project really interested me because I learned in-depth detail about logging which is something that I had limited knowledge on.  Additionally, I also assisted in developing a training workshop for hand-fallers to better identify workplace hazards, so it was cool to see my efforts be applied today in a real-life context.

An: “I’m especially proud of this research that I’ve done on different ways that the ethnic minority H’mong has been maintaining their culture and traditional forestry practices despite political pressures in Vietnam. I also worked with two bookstores in Vietnam, developed business plans for them, and persuaded them to exclusively use reusable bags instead of single-use plastic bags. I also briefly worked with a few foreign investors on a clean water project in Vietnam to ensure that rural communities, especially hospitals in rural communities, have sufficient clean water for their operations. Vietnam is home for me so any projects that I did in Vietnam are very dear to my heart. Aside from this, I’m very appreciative of all of the opportunities that I’ve been given to support professors in developing some of their teaching materials and applying for grants”

Amanda: “I had the privilege of working for a PhD candidate who was researching bark beetle- fungal associations. Because there’s not a lot of research on this particular species and its behavior, there was a lot of on-the-go problem solving to make the data collection work. It really highlighted the value of making careful observations about the entire system before getting too attached to plans.”

Q. Looking back on your time as a forestry student, what are some of your proudest accomplishments or favourite moments?

Johanna: “Definitely the CONS451 field school! Spending an entire semester having a good time with other Cons students in beautiful landscapes was a highlight of my entire degree. And I also will always remember the many, many hours spent in the Treehouse of the beautiful Forestry building which is one of the best spots on campus!”

Hongzheng: “I guess I’m pretty proud to have achieved almost A+ in every course!”

Kyle: “I’m proud of my time spent on the varsity field hockey team and being a representative on the Thunderbird athletic council. I loved field school and the connections I built with classmates and professors. I’m also really proud of the scholarships I received in recognition of my hard work including receiving the top forest ops student award at the Silver Ring ceremony.”

Yuton: “Probably this award at this year’s Silver Ring Ceremony. I feel like all the efforts I made were not in vain. It’s like a great affirmation of my study in the past two years.”

Lorry: “One of my most memorable moments was when my professor, Suzanne Simard, changed our midterm last minute to a take-home assignment because Greta Thunberg was visiting Vancouver.  She addressed the class by saying we would have countless midterms in our future, but rare opportunities to participate in movements like the climate strike. It was inspiring to see a professor make a bold move like that and I was so thankful that I was able to attend the climate strike and hear Greta speak!”

An: “I’m very proud of all the friends and professional connections that I’ve made. I moved to Canada alone to pursue my post-secondary career so being able to build this network that I feel safe in is incredibly important to me. I’m also very proud to be the first Project Manager for Wild Rhino (a campaign in Vietnam that falls under the jurisdiction of Wilderness Foundation Africa, a South African-based NGO) and led the campaign to its most successful eight months within the eight years that it has been in operation. I developed 90 online and offline programs that reached over 4 million people in five different cities in Vietnam.”

Amanda: “This degree is absolutely by far the biggest project I have undertaken, and I am very proud of myself for not leaving it unfinished.”

Q. What are your plans for after graduation and how do you see your forestry degree helping you achieve your goals?

Johanna: “I hope to do a Master’s degree in a couple of years but want to take a few years to work and figure out what I am most interested in, but it will ideally be related to wildlife and community-based conservation. At the moment, I’m working with Ducks Unlimited Canada and Raincoast Conservation on monitoring a series of salmon habitat restoration projects in the Fraser River Estuary and enjoying every minute outside, rain or shine!”

Hongzheng: “I would like to pursue a career in the primary wood industry here on the west coast. The BSCW degree helped prepare me for everything I would need for the job.”

Kyle: “I’d like to pursue a master’s of applied science in forestry and my P.Eng and RPF. A degree in forestry has been essential in this process and will help me achieve these goals.”

Yuton: “I have been admitted by the University of Pennsylvania to the master of bioengineering. So my plan is to get a master’s degree first. This forestry degree provides me with a solid foundation in bioeconomy and global sustainability, which may help me a lot in the future bioengineering designing and innovation etc.”

Lorry: “After graduation, I’m entering an Infrastructure Planner role with Mosaic Forest Management in Nanaimo, BC.  My degree in Forest Operations will help me understand the structure and reasoning behind daily operations that take place, ensuring sustainable forest practices and resulting in a resilient forest.  Entering the forest industry and profession of land management is intimidating but I’m looking forward to building upon my degree with knowledge I learn in a working context.”

An: “I’ve always been in science communications – this was my position with Parks Canada and Wild Rhino. I also got to work with vulnerable and equity-deserving communities in these two positions and got to learn more about what conservation looks like in different contexts. Recently, I’ve been more interested in more of the data analyst side and hoping that I can be more involved in the carbon markets and carbon trading systems. Both types of careers are highly relevant to the degree because I don’t only get to learn about quantitative analysis/research skills but also ways to work and speak with local people.”

Amanda: “I’ll be registering as a Forester in Training, which is the next step towards professional designation. Graduating from an accredited program was an important first step. The courses I took at UBC within my degree helped me to broaden the scope of what a career in forestry could encompass. I was able to gain invaluable experience through USRA and work learn positions that contributed to my success in finding employment that align with my values and career goals.”

Q. Can you share any advice or words of wisdom for other students who are interested in pursuing a career in forestry?

Johanna: “I think some prospective students are under the impression that Forestry is just about trees! And while you definitely get to learn a lot about forests, being a part of the Faculty of Forestry opens all sorts of doors and is all about a holistic point of view! I would encourage students in Forestry to embrace that and pursue a variety of experiences and work as it can only benefit you in the future.”

Hongzheng: “I’d definitely recommend you get into a co-op. The important thing is to combine textbook knowledge with real-life experience.”

Kyle: “You must have a driven curiosity to understand the forest. Such a complex adaptive system requires a holistic understanding of how many different areas of study interact and influence each other.”

Yuton: “Communication and mindset. Communication refers to talking to your TAs or professors as long as you have questions. Making good use of office hours can make your study more effective. You can even learn something unexpected from the conversation. Mindset, apparently, refers to having a good mental condition for your grades. The final grade usually does not reflect how many efforts you made. Sometimes in the same course, the nice professor will give you higher grades than the strict professor. However, that does not mean that you are being lazy or not learning at all. Maintaining peace of mind is what all matters.”

Lorry: “Never turn down opportunities!  You’ll learn the broad term of forestry encompasses way more than you realized so try to learn about as many different disciplines as you can.  Even if something doesn’t seem like a perfect fit for you, it’s worth a shot because more often than not, it can lead you to super interesting and fulfilling studies or professions!  Also, get involved in the faculty!  There are so many great programs to take advantage of to expand your academic, professional, and social connections!”

An: “The best part about being in Forestry is that you get to spend so much time outside in nature and working with people on the ground. Don’t be afraid to go outside and talk to people – you never know who you’re going to meet and what opportunities may be available to you!”

Amanda: “There’s a lot of learning to be had outside the classroom. Getting involved by volunteering with a research group, or in events and organizations related to your field of study not only helps you to gain skills and make connections, but also creates a better foundation for the course content you’ll encounter in your degree.”

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