Photo Credit: Duke Environment

Duke Forestry started off its 75th anniversary on Oct. 17 with a morning walk in the Duke Forest, for those brave enough to endure the week’s low temperatures. For everyone else, panel discussions were held throughout the day in Environment Hall covering a variety of topics relevant to forestry today, from its importance in modern society to the latest innovations in the field.

Forestry education at Duke began in the 1930s, when the program was established as the Duke School of Forestry. Over the years, the department evolved, and in 1990 the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies combined with the Duke Marine Laboratory to form the symbiosis that is now the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Alumni panel discussions were held by Nick Diluzio, M.E.M’10, M.F.’10, Katie Rose Levin, M.E.M.’12, M.F.’12,  Gary Myers, M.F.’77, and Meyer M. Speary, M.F.’92. The four alums have worked in various sectors of the forestry industry, and had much to share.

Discussions on the importance of forestry included its impact on capital structure and public policy, with Myers explaining how a tax law in 1979 on timberland lowered the government’s tax revenue, Diluzio tackling the importance of ecosystem services beyond the production of paper products, including clean water and carbon, and Rose considering the social benefits of forests.


Photo by Karduelis via Wikimedia Commons

Diluzio and Rose both talked about the subject of urban forestry, and its increasing relevance in today’s society. Urban forestry can be combined in a variety of ways with cities to help with infrastructure, stormwater management, and even hunger, as Diluzio brought up fruit trees being planted in Atlanta to feed the homeless. Rose discussed how urban forestry can provide a moral value in cities, as a source of recreation and stress management.

On innovation, the panelists agreed that the latest technology centered around data gathering, and its essential role in making informed decisions. Speary discussed the increasing use of drones in managing forest fires and reducing risk for firefighters, from picking up hotspots, to carrying water, smoke modeling, and examining where lightning occurs. Diluzio addressed web-GIS tools, and applying technology from other sectors to forestry.

They’ve changed the old forestry department to the Nicholas School of the Environment, but no matter what happens in forestry technology, Duke will help pave the way, with 75 years of leadership behind its back.

Devin_Nieusma_100By Devin Nieusma, Duke 2019