If you think of Canada you may think of ice hockey, moose, maple syrup or “Eh”. For me it is the vast forests. I am currently studying for my Forestry Masters at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) thanks to the Canada Memorial Foundation.
New Brunswick is in Eastern Canada in the Atlantic Maritimes. The department of Forestry at UNB was first formed in 1908 so has a wealth of history, forestry resources and passionate lecturers. New Brunswick is one of Canadas most forested provinces with over 80% of the land forested. In the UK we only have around 13% of the total land area forested (10% in England, 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and 8% in Northern Ireland). The appeal of coming to Canada was to learn the silviculture (the science and art of growing trees) in a country where forestry is a cornerstone of the economy.
I first arrived in Fredericton, New Brunswick in mid-August and after a few days to explore and settle it
was off into the forests to begin data collection for my thesis project. The Arcadian Forest Region in eastern Canada contains a unique mix of both boreal and temperate tree species. The boreal species are growing at their southernmost range and the temperate species are growing at their northernmost range. With both forest types at their respective extremes it is a region at the frontline of climate change and its subsequent impacts. I am looking into a landscape scale tree mortality event that occurred in balsam fir (Abies balsamea) which is linked to warming winters. I am also investigating the presence of Armillaria, a destructive root rot fungus. Although I had studied a BSc in Forestry back in the UK, an exciting thing about a Masters is the opportunity to learn new skills and techniques such as the DNA extraction and analysis of a fungus which is completely new to me.
If you are interested check out a more in depth look at the history of Fredericton.
Although pursuing a Masters degree should be principally driven by a desire for academic knowledge in your subject some non-academic opportunities are just too good to miss. The UNB Woodsman team was formed in the 1960s (the name is misleading as there is a women’s team too!). We compete in timber sport events that aim to mimic some of the old-world forestry harvesting techniques like felling trees with axes and cutting with saws. Each person on the team competes in various team events, a doubles event and a single event.
My double event was the underhand chop, where you stand on a piece of timber and use an axe to chop through it as quickly as possible. My singles event was the pole climb where you attach some spurs to your boots then head up a 28ft wooden pole as quickly as possible. We compete in the Canadian Intercollegiate Lumberjacking Association league with four competitions across the academic year. The first was held at UNB, with the others at Fleming College in Ontario, McGill University in Montreal and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. It was a great experience to visit all these places in eastern Canada and represent UNB. I have been told I am the first British person ever to be on the team.
In the winter New Brunswick has snow and lots of it. It has been good fun snowboarding, snowshoeing and navigating the perils of freezing rain. One of the strangest things about the long Canadian winter for me has been the timing of spring. This photo taken in April when in the UK tree buds are bursting and flowers are blooming.
Canada is a fantastic and awe-inspiring country. Its people are friendly, its forests are vast and there is a sense of wilderness here unlike that in the UK. If you are thinking about applying for the Canadian Memorial Foundation Scholarship, then do it – you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain!