Meeting with the Experts

I have always loved learning, and will often jump at any opportunity to share in new experiences and learn from experts. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of doing just that. My boss often tries to break up the monotony of her summer students’ day to day responsibilities by inviting us to meetings and events where we can enhance our proficiency in the many different realms of forestry. So far I have attended two such outings. One was a brief walk with members of K&C Silviculture, a nursery located near Oliver B.C., where Weyerhaeuser sources a large number of its seedlings. The other was a tour of the HASOC (HuAllen Seed Orchard Company) orchard, which develops high quality seed used to grow superior seedlings on the Weyerhaeuser forest management area (FMA).

Bright and early on June 5th, two knowledgeable individuals from K&C arrived in Grande Prairie. Their goal was to determine the health of the newly planted seedlings, and whether they could brave the trials of the real world after leaving the comfort and nutriment of the nursery (us university students can relate). For the most part, this simply involved walking through planted cutblocks at various stages of growth while observing the trees. We would occasionally pull up a few, look for infections, and try to diagnose the dead or sickly ones. In the process, I learned quite a bit about causes of mortality in seedlings. For example, a major contributor to seedling death in our FMA is winter desiccation. This is the result of the roots and leaves of the plant thawing at different times during the spring. The higher surface temperatures cause the plant to begin photosynthesizing, but the roots are often insulated by the clay rich soil common to the area. As a result, the roots are unable to uptake more water to replace that being used by the leaves, and the plant eventually dries out. The two K&C experts were also very passionate about botany, and plant identification, which is something I have always had an interest in. As a result, this proved an excellent opportunity to learn about some of the plant species I was not familiar with. There’s nothing like a good debate on the difference between a Vaccinium and a Lonicera to get me going in the morning (is it sad that I’m not being sarcastic?).

The roots of a K&C seedling that are beginning to grow, as can be seen by the white tips.

A couple of days after the K&C meeting, I was invited to attend a tour of the HASOC orchard. The company essentially acts as a “tree breeder”, where they select trees that show favourable characteristics, such as fast growth and disease resistance, and use them to produce new generations. This process is repeated until genetically superior trees are produced. On the tour, I met several experts in different fields, such as forest pathology, entomology, and genetics. As we walked through the rows of trees, we would frequently stop and look at galls, insects, and anything else that caught our interest. Among others, we came across instances of gall adelgids, lophodermella, sessid midges, and western gall rust. At one point a member of our tour even ate a pitch moth larvae! I always thought I was an adventurous type, but I must say I prefer my food dead. The experts all proved passionate, and excited to answer any questions I had throughout the tour, and as a result I learned quite a bit. I just wish that I had remembered the bug spray! It seems as though the orchard was breeding more than just trees. The things were like small birds with an unquenchable thirst for human blood. Despite that dark possibility of humanity’s doom, I still had a good time.

Rows of HASCO white spruce seed trees.

The soon to be eaten pitch moth larvae.

 

Experiences like these will always be incredibly valuable to me, and I hope to enjoy many more just like it during the remainder of my time at Weyerhaeuser. I hope you all are enjoying my ramblings, and look forward to tapping out a few more. And don’t forget to look at some of the following pictures and videos by me and my colleagues!

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