Alumni Stories—Sarah Diehr
BS, Forestry, 2008
Current job/field: Forester
Employer: USDI, Bureau of Land Management
I am currently employed as a forester with the US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in Klamath Falls, Oregon. My responsibilities vary greatly and include timber marking, project inspection, sale layout, NEPA writing, timber cruising, community outreach, stewardship, working on biomass projects, and even a little bit of firefighting. So far, I absolutely love my job.
I came across this job in fall 2008 while attending the annual SAF conference in Reno, Nevada, on a scholarship from Michigan Tech. There was a job fair at the conference, so I signed up for an interview with the BLM; to make a long story short, that is how I landed my position.
Many skills that I learned at Michigan Tech have been applicable in my current job, most notably the teamwork and on-the-ground field skills. Michigan Tech also instilled in me a good, hard work ethic and the ability to be adaptable, both of which are necessary to be a good forester. I also am grateful for the computer and Geographic Information System (GIS) skills I gained in college. We are expected to be able to use GIS and Global Positioning System (GPS) technology nearly every day. I also found that being a part of the FERM program provided invaluable experience—I would highly recommend it to any student who wants to do field forestry.
Two things that I did not learn about in school are biomass and stewardship projects. Renewable energy is huge, and the BLM is very involved on that front. In Klamath Falls, we are currently utilizing juniper woodlands as biomass for energy, and biomass plants are starting to become commonplace. I have also witnessed a fast pyrolysis machine, geothermal developments, and wind farm developments. I never knew as an undergraduate student that I would be setting up biomass chipping operations in the high desert.
When I was in college, I would have liked to know that I would be working in a cubicle today! I also never knew how important communication skills would be; they gain you professional respect in the community. To sum it up, I never knew how challenging, yet rewarding, a profession in multiple- use land management could be.