The field of forestry is one in which having professional connections are key, and the best time to start strengthening those networks is as a student. One student chapter of SAF in Wisconsin recognized the need for building connections both with their peers, graduate students, and newly declared undergrads within their own college before students head out into the ‘real world’, and constructed an event to meet their goals of building connections, teaching from their internship experience, and having fun.
The University of Wisconsin—Madison SAF Student Chapter (dubbed the UW Forestry Club) is a student-led and independently funded organization composed primarily of forestry undergrads. Led by an elected officer team of undergrads, the UW Forestry Club has monthly meetings with often a guest lecturer from the field and events throughout the fall and spring semesters.
The UW-Forestry Club called their new event the Field Forestry Fun Fest (FFFF); not unlike its name, the FFFF had a dense schedule of events. The venue for the Field Forestry Fun Fest was the family farm of Brian Zweifel, a graduate student in the department, which had open field for social space and eight acres of a mesic mixed hardwood woodlot. Planned by the officer team, the event started off with three activities: chainsaw safety and tree felling technique, a timber marking exercise, and a timber sports station. The 35 people in attendance were split into three groups and cycled through the activities.
Taught by Trevor Iglinski, the chainsaw safety and tree felling activity was to teach fellow students safe practices by using the two club chainsaws to demonstrate felling black cherry trees and letting attendees cut firewood and even fell small trees themselves. Trevor used knowledge from chainsaw safety class and from his recent internship with the USFS on a timber crew in Utah. As some members either never operated a chainsaw or only used one in chainsaw safety level 1, this mini-seminar gave students a chance to get their feet wet with a common forest management tool.
The timber marking exercise was led by Forestry Club Treasurer Kristina Kusel. She was able to share her experience from her internship with Steigerwaldt Land Services, a forestry consultant firm based in Hayward. This was conducted in Brian’s woodlot and was a marking of undesirable species (mainly black cherry) to create patch openings and favor white oak. This let students mark and see what a marking looks like on a landowner’s property.
The first two stations were set up in workshop format and were for gaining some practical field forestry experience, but the third station was to satisfy the third “F” in FFFF: FUN. The Forestry Club’s two-man crosscut saw was able to see its first use in years cutting an oak log in the hands of club members unfamiliar with a two-man crosscut saw. They were also able to have mock competitions in rolling a log with cant hooks through a course and throwing axes at a target. This station was coordinated by Logan Wells, and was a much needed fun distraction from the bustle of college life as well as creating fun memories during the last semester at college for many students.
After the many activities at the Field Forestry Fun Fest those in attendance were treated to a homemade apple cider making operation thanks to the generosity of the Zweifel family and a social dinner held in their barn. The Field Forestry Fun Fest filled the needs of the club and was a good opportunity for young people in the field to share knowledge with one another and make connections. This event was a success thanks to the help of the Zweifel family and the UW-Forestry Club officer team, and will likely continue in future years. Other big events featured by the club include an annual Christmas tree sale on campus this December and hosting, along with UW-Stevens Point Forestry, the 2016 SAF National Convention.
Read more about UW-Madison Forestry Club activities here (links to PDF).