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New degree program connects forestry and community

Through community forestry and arboriculture, UGA students learn how trees improve lives

Caring for trees in our communities is both an art and a science, and a new degree program at the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources will help teach students to master both.

Community forestry and arboriculture, an emphasis available through the Natural Resource Management and Sustainability major, focuses on the management of individual trees, groups of trees and small forests in communities. This growing field addresses social and environmental changes taking place in urban, suburban and rural areas, and the new degree program trains professionals to work as natural resource specialists, community foresters and arborists in utility, commercial, municipal and education sectors, as well as in advocacy or as consultants.

As the eighth most populated state in the country—and the 10th fastest growing—Georgia is a prime example of the need for community foresters, said Jason Gordon, assistant professor of community forestry at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. As more people move into urban and suburban areas, the need for professional tree care and management grows more vital.

“This is a field that is expanding rapidly in pace with growing metropolitan areas,” said Gordon. “Whether in the utility services industry, municipal ecosystem management or commercial tree care, there are many opportunities to apply science to improving landscapes and community well-being while also making a comfortable living.”

As an art form, trees add beauty and depth to our landscape. Community benefits associated with trees, said Holly Campbell, assistant professor of community forestry, include lower temperatures, cleaner air, lower crime and increased property values.

But the community forestry and arboriculture program also tackles the science behind tree health and management, with a focus on topics such as growth regulators, genetics, soil engineering, using drones and investigating how we interact with our landscapes.

As a result, she said, graduates of the program are prepared to move into a variety of careers as part of an expanding field.

“Our community forestry and arboriculture program prepares students to work as consulting arborists for tree care companies, foresters for large and small cities, state urban foresters, vegetation managers for utility companies or natural resource managers for community non-profit organizations,” said Campbell. And because the coursework includes an internship, students graduate with additional field experience, she added.

The new program addresses a growing need in communities across Georgia and the country, said community forestry faculty member Kim Coder. The opportunity will open doors for students, both undergraduate and graduate, who have a passion for the outdoors and want to contribute to improving their neighborhood or community.


“The world is changing. We are becoming more addicted to our concentrated infrastructures and hardscapes for survival,” said Coder, professor and Hill Fellow for Distinguished Public Service and Outreach. “But, it is greenscapes and trees that generate our quality of life beyond mere survival. Within the Warnell Community Forestry and Arboriculture program are the educational tools of change—for trees, communities and tree professionals. Trees are hope in a changing world.”


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