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Volunteers' Week Spotlight: Angela Douglas, Forester

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Lucky to have travelled and have been to Russia (1990), Fiji, Oman and lots of other fascinating places!

Tell us about your career journey so far.

At school I’d no idea what to do except to be outdoors related. 5th-year biology school forest visit got me curious. Didn’t know one tree from another! Studied forestry at university. Loved it with very wide range of subjects and great people! Started in private commercial forestry sector, excellent financial experience. Wanted to relocate and gain other experiences. Joined a public/private charity, great socio-economic and public sector insights. Wanted to return to more forestry. Took on short-term contract. High risk but extremely successful woodland initiative in super area. Next, became Scotland Director of large UK charity. Managed people, budgets and a very varied large and mostly wooded land portfolio. Led advocacy, policy, fundraising, promotional work and other work, often with partners. Hard work and adored the variety. Left following poor health to set up own Consultancy business. Enjoyed and plenty work! Now starting to retire. Rewarding, enjoyable and excellent career 😊

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

Biology/geography and chemistry equally. Had excellent teachers who inspired and took time to explain complicated topics with field trips! Biology - loved studying how living things work, grown, are formed and what happens in a life cycle. One organism can influence another. Geography – I was fascinated learning about the wider world and how our land has been formed and is influenced e.g. by water, the weather, what people do to it. Chemistry what forms everything and how elements interact with some unexpected experiments!

What subjects/qualifications/skills are useful for your role?

Maths is important for budgeting, measuring timber, trees for replacing ones harvested and more. Biology is important to know how a forest ecosystem operates, changes and can be influenced whether by extreme weather or climate change. Chemistry is important for soil science - the basis of all growing plants and micro-organisms, pests and diseases, water protection and more.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

Making a positive, long-lasting difference to our world through the varied values of trees, woods and forests for nature, people and economic benefits. One afternoon I remember clearly is providing a presentation to my own team of the highlights of their past year’s work. They loved it and by pausing and being shown recognised how much had been successfully delivered even if hard work at times! Made each person feel happy and pleased with what they had achieved.

What is a normal day in your role like?

Daily, I can be out in a forest checking how well young trees are growing, what wildlife is about, how sophisticated timber harvesting machines are working, the quality of growing timber and how many logs for house building are ready for a haulier to uplift. Or on another day I can be working out future forest plans, costs, quantities and budgets; how the weather might influence forests in future and how we can prepare more resilience for that; and learning the latest research developments including emerging technologies eg for remote surveying, long term forecasts, wood based products eg materials – material, pharmaceutical, energy production and more!

And what does your job title mean?

A forester looks after forests, woodlands and trees for ecological, economic and social benefits. You need to be aware of and take good care of a whole, inter-connected ecosystem – soil to air! There are lots of very varied roles with something for everyone. For example, overall day-to-day management of forests; planting trees; preparing forest plans; identifying and recording animals, birds, insects, vegetation or pests/diseases; designing and building forest roads, bridges and waterways; harvesting mature trees to provide a sustainable timber supply (UK imports 90% the net amounts of timber we use, the world’s 3rd largest timber importer!) with very advanced and expensive machinery; sawmilling or timber transport; forest research and much more!

Can you suggest an activity that could be done at home that illustrates an aspect of your work?

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