The Sundown concert series is well underway. As we enter week three of this great event, we talk with Dean Thomas Maness of the OSU College of Forestry about the college, living and working in Oregon, and what employees do during the well-deserved summer break.
The Oregon State University College of Forestry is an internationally recognized leader that is transforming education, research and policy for sustaining and managing forest ecosystems in the 21st century. The college offers a world-class education with a wide variety of career opportunities, and provides leadership and the latest scientific knowledge to inform community decision-making around key issues facing our forests.
Ecotrust: Why did the college become involved in Sundown?
Dean Maness: We’re inventing a new College of Forestry and this is a great opportunity for us to share our story with new people who may not be familiar with the college or with the variety of relevant, practical research we’re doing. Our faculty and students are working on issues like community health, climate change, watershed health, fire ecology, wildlife habitat, green building materials, and more. These are intimately connected to forest management, natural resources and the environment. They are finding solutions and developing best practices to promote resilient forest landscapes that nurture healthy people and vibrant communities. We’ve partnered with Ecotrust on several open forums around forestry issues, and felt like Sundown was a great fit for us to interact with the people of Portland, which you may know was once known as “Stumptown,” and now boasts one of the largest and most beautiful urban forests in the world.
If you had to pick one place or person that represents the spirit of OSU College of Forestry, who or where would it be, and why?
There are a number of idyllic places that I could pick, but I am going to choose downtown Portland, because I want you to get the feel of our college. The College of Forestry is an exciting place to work! Like Portland, the college is filled with young optimistic people with lots of new ideas and a can-do attitude. We’re surrounded by forests, we care about forests and we go to the forest every chance we get. We swap stories about our latest outdoor adventure or field project. But the spirit of the college is energy and forthrightness, very much like Portland. We know we have to break the mold and do something different. So it’s a stimulating place to be right now.
Tell us about how students and universities are changing their perspective around social and environmental outcomes.
Universities have always been at the forefront of issues around environmental sustainability and social change, but students today are much more globally aware and tuned in to using and making sustainable products. And I think many people would be surprised at the breadth and depth of research and education that Oregon State’s College of Forestry is doing around critical issues facing our forests and our communities. Our students are learning from new, up and coming faculty stars – including our new department head of Forest Ecosystems and Society, internationally known conservation social scientist Dr. Troy Hall. As Oregon’s only land grant university, Oregon State students are more concerned than ever about being thoughtful stewards of our amazing Oregon landscapes, including finding innovative ways to renew the economies of rural communities across the state.
How is the history of the College intimately connected to the history and culture of Oregon?
In the beginning trees covered the lands now known as Oregon. Beavers used some of those trees to create beautiful ponds, wetlands, and waterfalls. The beautiful ponds attracted ducks with their varieties of exotic plumage. So forests, and those that manage them, are firmly established in our history. Today Oregon is home to some of the most beautiful and valuable forests in the world, and for more than a century, the College of Forestry has been educating forestry professionals to bring science and rigor to managing those forests. We’ve earned a reputation as a world-class center of teaching and learning about forests and natural resources, and our more than 15,000 acres of College Forests bring research and recreation together so people can learn about what makes healthy and vibrant forest landscapes. This year we are entering into a partnership with the University of Oregon College of Architecture and Allied Arts to create a research and learning center around building tall buildings with wood, the most sustainable building material on earth. Thus we bring beavers and ducks together, as in days of old.
It’s summer. What are you and other employees/students looking forward to in the dry months?
Field work! The college has so many great opportunities for students and faculty to be outside in the woods through internships, research and study abroad. Many of our students are working as tour guides, recreation managers, and firefighters, and doing active research caring for trees, forest soils, wildlife, water and fish. From Portland to Paisley, Lake Oswego to Crater Lake, Beaverton to Bend to Baker City, we love working and playing in Oregon’s awesome outdoors.