August 17, 2020 12:18 pm Leave your thoughts
For my final entry in the Green Dream Blog, I would like to give an overall summation of my summer in Grande Prairie, as well as fill you in with some of the other odds and ends that I was able to participate in this work season.
As another summer work season quickly approaches the end, it is difficult to look back and feel as though I participated in as many tasks as I had hoped. It happened so quickly after all. The truth is, however, that picking away at the summer month to month reveals that I was fortunate enough to experience the many different aspects of what makes a Timberlands company successful. Apart from the obvious tasks that I have detailed in my previous entries (reflagging, flying a drone and performing log quality audits), I took part in many one off tasks, assisted other students on their projects and tagged along with a number of different members of the Grande Prairie office. I’m sure there’s even more that I am missing in this summation, but here goes.
The month of May is when I took on the Drone pilot certification and spent a lot of time troubleshooting some technological issues while flying blocks to capture required imagery. On days that weather did not cooperate, I met many of the staff at Weyerhaeuser and tagged along with a few of them to check on their preharvest blocks. One of the main goals when walking these preharvest blocks is to make sure the flagging contractor followed the map and to get a “boots on the ground” look at the landscape. This is a great opportunity to ensure that roads in the block will be on an acceptable grade and avoid wet areas that will cause issues later. Walking the preharvest blocks allows for a great understanding of the landscape and can help make important decisions, like if the block should be designated as a winter or summer harvest.
In June, I was assigned a small package of reflagging blocks to be completed with the aid of another student. These were considered a low priority project, and as such, I found myself helping other students with their projects as needed. One of these projects was with another fellow Green Dream Blogger, Julia Hollingsworth, who oversees stocking survey programs and pre herbicide assessments. If you are interested learning more, I highly recommend reading her informative blog posts on the subject, she really is the expert on these projects. In a nutshell, plots are scattered across a block and require measurements to be taken at each point. These plots gather valuable data on post harvest blocks that are instrumental in making proper management decisions. As Julia outlines in her post, the work can be repetitive, but there are few tasks that allow someone to hike the entirety of a block and get to know it like the back of their hand. Many of the students participating in this project have enjoyed munching on wild berries, finding discarded animal antlers and encountering various wildlife species
In July, I began participating in log quality audits. I was finally back on active harvest sites talking with operators and contractors. This is something I was looking forward to most of the summer, likely due to my background that is heavy with harvesting experience and that I grew up on harvest sites with my dad. Another exciting project I found myself on for a day was helping a fellow student intern with post sheep grazing assessments. Moving forward, Weyerhaeuser is experimenting with alternatives to herbicides on tree plants. One method being attempted this summer is the use of sheep grazing to control grasses and other competitive species that will hinder the growth of our planted stock. It was odd seeing about 100 sheep being herded by sheep dogs in the middle of a harvested block, but remarkably interesting to witness the process. The post grazing assessments tally things such as species, height, levels of remaining competition and potential damage to the planted seedlings by the sheep. This data will be stacked against control areas that the sheep were barred from entering. This will give Weyerhaeuser an understanding as to how effective sheep grazing is as an alternative to herbicides.
August started a little slower unfortunately, as on the same day I was slated to take a helicopter ride to do some erosion control, I came down with some mild symptoms that are considered “major” in COVID-19 self assessment tools. Alerting my managers, I was asked to stay home and book an appointment to get tested by Alberta Health Services. As of this writing, I am currently still in isolation awaiting test results, but I have felt fine for the past couple of days. With that out of the way, I will be participating in several log quality audits as more and more contractors have started their harvests. One contractor in particular has shown keen interest in showing me the ropes of his operation, and I look forward to getting to know the ins and outs of a softwood processing job site.
There we have it, with only two and a half weeks remaining before my final day of work, I write this final blog post. There must be so many little details that I missed from my day to day life here in Grande Prairie, and I feel regret about that, as this is not only a blog series for others to appreciate, but for myself to reflect on later in my career when I miss the carefree days of summer internships in a different province. These types of experience do not come often, and they certainly do not come to everyone, so when they do it is important for us to appreciate them properly. It is the little moments like the ones that I am missing from these entries that truly solidify our memories and experiences. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that were offered to me this summer, and as such I would like to thank Weyerhaeuser Grande Prairie for selecting me as their Forest Operations Intern for the summer of 2020. There was some adapting to work life in Alberta, such as different road bases that required more active care while driving in rain, an extreme amount of oil and gas traffic to safely share the road with and keeping the truck between the lines when gawking at the magnificent views offered by this area. I would like to thank my manager Carleen for taking me under her wing throughout the first few weeks of my internship and answering my endless questions, and of course for introducing me to her wonderful pup Lola. Carleen was so accommodating both at work and in our off hours, and she made the whole experience in Grande Prairie unforgettable. So, thank you Carleen! I would also like to thank The Greenest Workforce in partnership with The Forest Products Association of Canada for selecting me to be one of their Green Dream Bloggers for the summer of 2020. I really enjoyed sharing my experiences with anyone who is interested in forestry work, and I enjoyed working out my creative writing side over the summer as well. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences this summer, and I could not recommend our field of work enough to anyone who interested. We are truly lucky to do what we do day to day, and knowing that the decisions we make today impacts the generations forests to come leaves me with an eerie feeling of both comfort and longing to be here to witness the future of our forests.