Ag Careers Spotlight: Forester
Being outside and working with people appealed to Sean Godbold, an Oneida, Ky. native, and when looking at potential careers, he figured that the title of forester would provide that for him. While he spends a lot of time outdoors, it’s his biology and conservation knowledge that makes him a respected and awarded tree inspector.
Sean is a forester with the Kentucky Division of Forestry out of Frankfort, and he works in the north central region. His area covers nine counties between Jefferson and Franklin, and south to Nelson Co.
His job varies from week to week, with some time in the field and some in the office. A typical day involves making an appointment with a landowner and walking his woods to look at tree species, size and quality and then making recommendations on how to improve timber output. That could mean providing a timber stand improvement plan, where lower-quality trees are marked for thinning to allow better growth of the higher-quality trees. The information Sean is not allowed to provide is a speculation of how much money the timber on a landowner’s property will bring.
Once Sean is back in the office, he will write up a forest stewardship plan on what was discussed. Knowing the landowner’s objectives determines the recommendations he will provide. A few landowners are less interested in selling timber and are looking for ways to improve wildlife habitat, or they may only want to know that they are taking care of their woods and the environment. And in some cases, the landowner is looking at encouraging growth of alternative forest crops like ginseng and mushrooms.
For fun and variety, Sean is one of several foresters that don the Smokey the Bear costume to help educate school children and the public about taking care of forests and preventing forest fires. Sean helps monitor and enforce burn bans as well. He informed me that there is a restriction on burn times in the spring and fall where landowners should not have fires on their property between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. due to higher wind velocity and lower humidity.
Sean earned his Bachelors of Science degree in forest resource management from Clemson University in South Carolina (he has family there), and he moved back to Kentucky to follow a girl and his heart.
In addition to working for the state, he has worked for a tree trimming company and a private consultant forester. He said other options are working as a federal forester, for more recreational-focused industries, or in the private sector as a timber buyer.
Sean does wish he would have had an internship during college to help better prepare him for the years ahead, and I let him know that we have heard that from several of our professionals (hint, hint).
Where to study forestry and natural resources in Kentucky:
Kentucky State University, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Western Kentucky University, Department of Agriculture
Northern Kentucky University, Pre-Forestry Program