In this episode, host Kacey sits down with douglas fir geneticist Sara Lipow, from Roseburg Forest Products to talk about her work to help the next generations of douglas fir trees in western Oregon withstand the effects of climate change.
Please describe your educational/training background
BA in Biology from Reed College. PhD in Plant Genetics from the University of Georgia.
Please describe where you work & your occupation
I work for Roseburg Forest Products, a company that owns and sustainably manages 600,000 acres of forestland. I manage the company’s tree breeding and seed orchard programs. I do research to develop trees that are well-adapted to their local environments, that produce high-quality wood products, and that are resilient to a range of stresses to forest systems. I also grow tree seed from the highest quality trees; this seed is then used during reforestation following logging and forest fires.
Career-wise, what have been your proudest moments/highlights/accomplishments so far?
I believe my work is important for maintaining a healthy forest industry in Oregon and for helping forests and people adapt to climate change. The real value of my work has been through the accumulation of incremental improvements over time, as opposed to the completion of one or a few high-impact projects.
What are some of your future goals or things you would like to accomplish?
I would like to become more involved in policy issues that impact a broader range of forest landowners in the Pacific Northwest.
What have been some of your biggest career challenges?
I work in a male-dominated industry, and this is not always comfortable. Especially early in my career when there were even fewer women, it was apparent that my presence made some of my male colleagues, especially those of an older generation, uneasy. I had to consciously remind myself that this was their issue, and one I didn’t need to take on.
Many young women might not be aware of the careers available in STEM fields. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in these fields?
Outreach efforts like this podcast are very effective! Many girls discover that they enjoy being outdoors through experiences like summer camps, outdoor schools, and recreational activities like hiking. I would encourage any girls or young women who enjoy being in the natural world to look into a career in forestry.
Do you have any advice for women who are looking to follow on a similar career path?
Right now, there is a shortage of trained forestry professionals. My company and many other companies are actively trying to find qualified candidates. Thus, there are lots of job opportunities. For this reason, I would encourage anyone with an interest in working outdoors to pursue a career in forestry. With respect to the specific field in which I work–forest genetics–there is a real need for increased numbers of highly trained professionals. Forest geneticists will play a pivotal role in helping landowners respond to changing climatic conditions. I anticipate this field will have increased importance and impact in the future.
What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
I like to hike, mountain bike, go backpacking, and spend time with my husband and three college-aged children.