South Lake Tahoe, Calif. —Last week, South Tahoe High seniors Emily Barnett and Tyler Myers traveled to Russia to present their field research project, “The Effects of Fire and Forest Thinning on the Biodiversity of Understory Plants in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” at the Ninth Annual International Junior Foresters’ Competition. Their project won Third Prize out of 52 projects presented by students from around the world. The students were honored during a large concert celebrating “Day of the Forest Worker” in Moscow, during which the Head of the Russian Federal Forestry Agency, V.N. Maslyakov, presented their prizes to them.
The competition, which was held in Moscow September 12 through 14, 2012, is hosted by the Russian Federal Forestry Agency. This annual event brings together youth from nations around the world to promote and reward young scientists for their interest and efforts in the environmental field and encourage international dialogue concerning forestry issues. This year, close to 100 students from 35 countries took part. The students’ projects (a written report and a 10-minute presentation) were evaluated by an international panel of 15 forestry experts who judged the students’ projects. This was the first time the United States participated in the competition.
Barnett and Myers’ project grew out of their participation in the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit’s (LTBMU) Youth Conservation Corps. Joy Barney, Conservation Education Specialist for the LTBMU, and Hugh Safford, Regional Ecologist for USFS Region 5, provided guidance and support for the project, but Barnett and Myers handled much of the data collection and analysis on their own. Because Tyler and Emily were both employed with the LTBMU’s Botany and Aquatics Crew this summer, they worked on the project in their free time on Fridays and weekends throughout the summer. The judges at the competition were especially impressed with the students’ articulate explanation of the statistical tests they had employed in their analysis, as well as by the students’ knowledge of the scientific names of various understory species from the Tahoe basin.
The students’ participation in this competition is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Forest Service and the Russian Federal Forestry Agency. These two agencies have collaborated for over 50 years on research, technical cooperation, and policy issues. Like the U.S., Russia contains temperate and boreal forests. The forests share similar species, similar forest health problems, and some common threats. In addition, both countries benefit from exchanging lessons learned through their extensive experiences in forest research and management. Both agencies are committed to engaging youth in innovative projects and fostering long-term interest in careers focused on natural resource management. Barnett and Myers received scholarships from the Forest Service International Programs Office to cover the cost of their international travel, and all in-country expenses for all competitors were covered by the Russian Federal Forestry Agency.