Top 5 Reasons to Join UBC’s Urban Forestry Program

Why should students consider joining UBC’s Urban Forestry program? With more than half the world’s population living in urban areas, increasing urbanization, and rising public expectations for livable, sustainable and greener communities, cities all over the world will need urban forestry professionals who can deal with these complex, multi-disciplinary challenges. Do you want to bring nature to the city? Can you help to protect and restore the beauty and benefits of urban greenspaces and ecosystems?
Here are 5 reasons to check out the new Bachelor of Urban Forestry, Canada’s first undergraduate degree program dedicated to the planning and management of urban greenspaces:


Helping people: Improving people’s quality of life through greening the concrete jungle. Urban foresters deliver happiness to city dwellers. Many research studies have shown that green environments improve physical and psychological health, encourage active recreation, reduce crime, and raise property values. Just by viewing natural scenery outside a window, people feel less stress and are significantly happier (Hansmann et al, 2007). Trees can increase property values, rental income, and commercial revenues (Wolf, 2005, 2012). Without trees and landscaping, the city can be a grim place to live, work and commute. UBC Forestry graduate student Lorien Nesbitt is studying how to improve “green equity” in poorer neighbourhoods in Vancouver and other cities, where people have little access to the many benefits of a mature tree canopy such as shade, filtered air, and aesthetics.

“We all deserve to live in communities that support our health and well being. Trees are an important part of creating healthy and productive communities. Trees make life better.” – Lorien Nesbitt

Saving our communities by climate proofing cities: Urban forests and ecosystems play an important role in moderating the extremes of climate change. There is an urgent need to conserve, manage and expand our green infrastructure, the parts of urban nature that quietly and effectively shelter and moderate our environment against increasing heat waves, flash floods, forest fires, and air pollution, all at very little cost. We need students and professionals who know how to reverse the decline of urban forests, through re-greening of our hardscapes, restoring salmon streams, re-wilding parks, and restoring a healthy and resilient tree canopy.Our urban forests are under attack, from climate change as well as development pressures. In 2015, residents of the Pacific Northwest faced one of the hottest and driest summers in decades, and found themselves in the midst of water shortages, raging forest fires, and smoke-filled skies.
When rain finally came, a powerful windstorm swept communities, causing substantial damage to trees and cutting off power to well over 1 million homes. It is vital that we keep our urban forests in a healthy and resilient state in order to support sustainable and livable cities for the future.


Expanding job prospects: Most cities are gearing up to confront the challenges facing their urban forests and communities. This means growing job opportunities in local government (such as parks, planning, and environmental departments), consulting firms, education, and research. For example, the City of Surrey in British Columbia has hired 7 graduates from UBC’s Conservation and Forestry programs in recent years, including Neal Aven, now the City’s Urban Forestry and Environmental Programs Manager. In some parts of Canada, there are more jobs in urban forestry than in conventional forestry.
In China, the numerous new cities under construction demand thousands of professionals skilled in design, installation and maintenance of parks and green spaces. Throughout the 4-year Bachelor of Urban Forestry program, students will meet practitioners in arboriculture, landscape architecture, urban planning, engineering, and nursery operations through lectures, field trips, and UBC’s Co-op and Internship programs.


Developing transferable skills: Urban forestry is a truly interdisciplinary field. We encourage our students to incorporate various skillsets, including systems thinking, gamification, people skills (such as community engagement and communications), design and planning of greenspaces, geographic information systems, and governance. These skillsets will prepare our graduates for a range of public and private sector careers in urban forestry and related fields. Our graduates will also be well-equipped to pursue post-graduate education and research in various disciplines.


Doing cool stuff: Where else can you learn from leading researchers in fields as diverse as geomatics and remote sensing, urban ecology, landscape architecture, urban planning, and visual communications? Where better than in Vancouver, British Columbia— the “Greenest City”— to learn and apply innovative and practical skills in urban forestry? Some of our researchers are mapping the shifting of entire ecosystems, and discovering ways to reduce wind and fire damage to our forests and communities. Others are developing educational videogames to build awareness of climate change and ecosystem services in local high schools. Urban Forestry is more than you might think!

The Urban Forestry Program at UBC offers students opportunities to learn about regional parks, botanical gardens, nature reserves, Indigenous communities, coastal forests, and scenic recreational backdrops to our cities. UBC provides international networks that can connect students with case studies and contacts in countries around the world. Your opportunities are endless!

Hansmann, R., Hug, S-M., Seeland, K. (2007). Restoration and stress relief through physical activities in forests and parks. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 6(4), 213-225. doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2007.08.004
Wolf, K.L. (2005). Business district streetscapes, trees and consumer response. Journal of Forestry, 103(8), 396-400.
Wolf, K.L. (2012 October 20). Economics of City Trees. Sitelines: Landscape Architecture in BC, 14-17. Retrieved from percent20Sitelines_October percent202012.Wolf.pdf
Uprooted trees and damaged properties caused by a windstorm in Vancouver, BC, August 2015. Photo by Rod Raglin / CC BY-SA