IFSA Students Connect in Quebec City

SEFS students Salina Abraham, Rachel Yonemura, Miku Lenentine and Cleo Woodcock recently had the opportunity to attend the Canadian American Regional Meeting (CARM) as part of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA). The conference was held in Quebèc City in Canada, just north of Maine, from February 9 to 14. As a student-run international nonprofit, IFSA engages students locally, regionally and internationally for broader understanding of forestry. CARM is the regional-level gathering that connects students from across the United States and Canada to network, learn and share current natural resource issues and management techniques.

Here’s what Salina and Rachel wrote about the experience this year!

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Three plane rides to our destination, special orders of fleece-lined jeans, and the preparatory Skype meetings could not have prepared us for the week we were about to experience. After being transported from the Pacific Northwest into the winter wonderland that is Quebec City, we successfully dragged our suitcases across the snow-covered campus of the Université Laval. In a few short hours, we were surrounded by many other students sharing our passion in environmental science—and confusion for what was to come. This year’s CARM, after all, went above and beyond the historical precedent of a two- to three-day weekend conference filled with various lectures, site visits and bonding activities.

In case the red glow doesn’t give it away, you’re looking at the foresters' Valentine’s Day party!

In case the red glow doesn’t give it away, you’re looking at the foresters’ Valentine’s Day party!

The Université Laval Organizing Committee ensured that the international attendees to this conference were integrated into all aspects of life in Quebec City. CARM students participated in a wide range of activities, from snowshoeing through Forêt Montmorency, the world’s largest teaching and research forest; learning about Université Laval’s wood engineering program; and a delicious and informative visit to a traditional “sugar shack” to uncover the secrets to maple syrup engineering. The conference workshops covered topics such as IFSA International structure and updates, regional obligations and opportunities, as well as ways to improve engagements with our community, and understanding our role as emerging young professionals in the forestry sector and world of environmental science. We also heard from a local hydrologist, the dean of Université Laval, Canadian professional organizations, and a number of graduate and undergraduate students presenting on their newest research.

Creating an inclusive, well-connected community was one of the major takeaways from this trip for all of the students. During our week we shared dorms, halls and conversations with the students in Quebec City. These conversations expanded our perspectives on forestry, and our eager expositions on the spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest surely expanded some perspectives as well. After a foresters’ Valentine’s Day party, where we found our ‘matches’ and a day full of forestry competitions and games, it was apt that we closed the conference in the apartments of U-Laval students. Gathered on the limited couch space or floor with musical instruments in hand, we sang songs in French and English and felt the warmth of an inclusive, open space. That’s the type of community our local committee of IFSA hopes to cultivate continually at SEFS.

One of the most essential pieces to CARM and regional meetings is that they serve to maintain the strength of IFSA as a nonprofit organization. Regional meetings are opportunities for IFSA international officials to meet with members and share the organization’s accomplishments and new opportunities, and enable local committee members to step up into leadership roles. As head of the International Processes Commission of IFSA, Salina wanted to take the opportunity to use CARM as a thermometer for youth attitudes on regional and international issues.

“As my commission is tasked with representing IFSA members globally on an international stage, it is imperative that we continually have these conversations with each other to fully understand what that means,” she says. “Through assistance from Professor Indroneil Ganguly, I was able to do an independent research project to dive into this topic through focus groups at CARM. Thanks to my commission and SEFS support, this method will be replicated at regional meetings across the globe—with Northern Europe and Southern Europe coming next. It is my hope that we, students, can be better represented through and informed about international environmental policy.” (Read more about Salina’s research.)

For those interested, do not worry, our conversations with our Canadian and American counterparts have not ended! Everyone is welcome to join us at our Northern America IFSA Coffee Hour held on the third Monday of every month at 8:30 a.m. through Google Hangouts (the next one is on April 18; email Miku for details at miku.ifsa@gmail.com). IFSA has a bunch of events lined up for Earth Week next week, as well, including publication and resume workshops, an alumni networking event and even a movie premiere. Also, U-Laval created a summary video of CARM if you wanted to check out some of the fun.

And as always, stay tuned for IFSA updates—new officers, new positions and new events!

Photos © UW IFSA.

CARM attendees in the middle of Forêt Montmorency, the world’s largest teaching and research forest.

CARM attendees in the middle of Forêt Montmorency, the world’s largest teaching and research forest.

The 43rd International Forestry Students’ Symposium

by Miku Lenentine,
SEFS Doctoral Student

What kind of conference lasts for two weeks, allows you to completely immerse yourself in another culture and way of viewing natural resource management, creates opportunities to meet more than 100 forestry students from more than 40 countries, and provides a chance to experience the world of forestry through an international youth perspective? Why, the 43rd International Forestry Students’ Symposium, of course!

Salina Abraham (left) and Miku Lenentine.

Salina Abraham (left) and Miku Lenentine.

Through the official establishment of the UW IFSA Local Committee in February 2015, Salina Abraham and I had the chance to be the first-ever delegates representing SEFS, UW and the West Coast at this amazing event. It’s hard to capture the magnitude of this experience in a few short paragraphs, but I will try!

IFSA World is an international nonprofit run completely by students. It is the largest student-run organization of its kind, and it strives to be the voice of global youth in conservation and environmental management. With partners like IUFRO, CIFOR and FAO, IFSA truly is the voice for students and future resource managers, and it offers a direct pathway to attending and representing youth at events like the UNFCCC COP 2015 in Paris this year.

Much of the business of running IFSA and cultivating this leadership takes place at the annual symposium, and this year’s gathering was held in the Philippines from July 28 to August 10. The range of activities and experiences there was incredible. At the Senate of the Philippines in Manila, we got to attend presentations from industry professionals and top researchers from the University of the Philippines, Los Banos. We participated in local natural resource management field tours, including planting mangrove trees, hiking through the Los Banos experimental forest (largest in the country), and visiting a rice museum to learn about the challenge of rice cultivation and balancing extractive resource management with food productivity.

Miku at the rice museum.

Miku at the rice museum.

We also attended the IFSA General Assembly, which feels like a mini-United Nations. That’s where all of the elections and business decisions for IFSA World are conducted for the coming year. It was a very new and educational experience for me, and all protocols for behavior and communication were quite formal. Before anybody spoke, for example, they were expected to stand and state their name and country. As part of this year’s General Assembly, as well, Salina and I were both nominated for IFSA World leadership positions, and we are now a part of the 2015/2016 IFSA World Officer team. Salina serves as the International Processes Commission Head, and I am the regional representative for the United States, along with a counterpart in Canada.

Giving my talk, “People Matter – Effectively Gauging Social Acceptability in Natural Resource Planning,” was my first experience presenting my preliminary research results to an international audience, and my first experience speaking to a group larger than 50 people! I thought I would be a minority in studying human dimensions, but I was surprised by the number of people who said my presentation resonated with them. In fact, a major theme of the symposium was becoming a “society-ready” forester.

One of the biggest things I learned from attending the symposium was that the term “forestry” is not just about silviculture and timber harvests. Forests mean life. Everything is forestry—it encompasses and is connected to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, too. We are all foresters in this sense, even me (I am apparently a social forester!).

Students learning how to catch hermit crabs.

Students catching hermit crabs.

Another important takeaway for me was getting to know the other participants and learning more about forestry conditions in their countries. The level of informal knowledge we shared was amazing, even with simple questions like, “What is your forest like?” Also, with more than 100 of us traveling everywhere together in overstuffed open-air taxis called Jeepneys, we all grew quite close. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner together, laughed together, got lost together, sang karaoke together, and many of us made new friends for life in the process.

By far the greatest value for me from attending IFSS 2015, though, was experiencing an overwhelming sense of camaraderie and inspiration as I connected with my newfound peers and friends from around the world. We are all working on this together, ushering in a new generation of sustainable resource management for the future. And though the challenges we face are daunting, I am inspired to continue, inspired to do better, and inspired to create a new path forward together.

I want to end with a special shout-out to Sajad Ghanbari, former SEFS student and current founder of a new IFSA local committee at the University of Tabriz in Iran, who inspired the whole thing by saying, “Gosh, why don’t you have a UW IFSA?” And now we do!

Photos © Miku Lenentine.

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IFSA Welcome Meeting: October 15!

Among the 867 registered student organizations (RSOs) at the University of Washington, and the 44,786 students now roaming around campus, it can be both difficult and overwhelming for students to chart a path through the many options. In the field of environmental sciences, particularly, it can be very easy to become absorbed in the Pacific Northwest and our native species, and to lose track of our shared problems and practices with the rest of the globe. Miku Lenentine and Rachel Roberts, graduate students at SEFS, recognized a gap in our student groups last year and began working to fill it through forming the first UW chapter of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA).

Today, in its second full year as an RSO, IFSA is filled with excitement and the possibilities to connect the UW community and the world through forestry. After sending two delegates to the International Forestry Students’ Symposium (IFSS) in the Philippines this summer (a separate story on our adventures coming soon), we are better equipped to serve the UW community and bring the ‘IFSA spirit’ to our campus.

One of the trees Salina and Miku helped plant in the Philippines as part of the symposium this summer.

One of the trees Salina and Miku helped plant in the Philippines as part of the symposium this summer.

IFSA is a nonprofit organization that, first and foremost, is an international network of forestry and environmental science students. Through this active network, we share study and job opportunities abroad, along with information about varying environmental management practices for greater awareness. IFSA also works to bring students together through both casual and formal meetings, serving to represent youth in international forestry processes. We send delegations of students to important events through our partnerships with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Forum on Forest, UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and others. We are sending delegations to COP 12 in Paris this fall and even have a few UW members selected to attend the Global Landscapes Forum during COP! Rather than passively attending, as well, IFSA often works to organize side events at to provide students with more opportunities to lead, speak and share their insights.

To inform our fellow students about these opportunities for the SEFS community, we (the UW Local Committee) are holding our first “Welcome Meeting” on Thursday, October 15, at 4:30 p.m. in the Forest Club Room. This meeting is a perfect opportunity for all who want to get involved to learn more. We will have refreshments and boundless enthusiasm about the fun we can have together in this next year. If I have learned one thing from being an IFSA member, it is that when we students come together for a greater purpose, we are incredibly powerful!

Check out the global IFSA organization (“The World”) and the UW IFSA chapter for more info.

Hope to see you soon!

Salina Abraham
VP of Public Relations – IFSA UW
Head of International Processes Commission – IFSA World

Delegates at the International Forestry Students' Symposium in the Philippines this summer.

Delegates at the 2015 International Forestry Students’ Symposium in the Philippines.