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An Interesting Career in Forestry

Derek Gibson works in the Forestry Development Department in Teagasc as a Forestry Technician. His overall role is to provide support to the forestry researchers on all aspects of the research work being undertaker. Here he gives more information on his interesting role.

Hello, my name is Derek Gibson. I started my career with Teagasc in January 2018 as a technician in the Forestry Development Department. I studied at Waterford Institute of Technology where I obtained a BSc (Hons) in Land Management in Forestry, graduating in 2016. Before joining Teagasc I was employed as a chainsaw operator, and then by a forest inventory company, a role which involved the measurement, mapping and assessment of commercial forestry stands throughout the country.

My role in the Forestry Development Department in Teagasc involves working on many different forestry research projects. I provide support to the research staff in aspects of project delivery such as data collection, recording tree measurements, and also the monitoring and upkeep of field trials. Some projects include tree breeding for improvement, remedial silviculture, sustainable thinning, ash dieback, and continuous cover forestry. Some of these trials are located at my base in Ashtown, Co. Dublin, and at other Teagasc centres such as Oakpark, Co. Carlow and Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford, and throughout the country on many privately owned forestry sites.

An example of the type of work which is carried out is the measurement and assessment of trees in existing provenance trials for their desirable traits such as vigour, straightness and light branching. These assessments are recorded and then used to inform decisions on selection of desirable phenotypes for breeding. Data collection for different projects is carried out using a number of devices and tools including a hypsometer for measuring tree heights, a diameter tape or callipers, a microsecond timer to predict tree stiffness, and these are recorded on a handheld field computer.

Figure 1. Measuring a young Sitka spruce field trial

The variety of projects which I am involved with has allowed me the opportunity to acquire new skills such as plant propagation e.g. grafting, and the management and care of the trees in indoor seed orchards, including pest management and irrigation.

There are many other projects across the research department which require my input for maintenance, assessment of trees for health and quality, measurement and logging of the data for further analysis and also my input and opinion regarding the future of trials and ideas on how they can be best utilised going forward. The role is one which requires knowledge in many different aspects of forestry, in both practice and theory and is a very challenging one, and also a very interesting one.

Fig 2. Recently grafted alder plants in the Ashtown glasshouse facility