My Summer Internship: Research for the Forest Collaborative

Oct 11, 2012

This summer, I had a wonderful three months working at RESOLVE as a policy research intern and completed my first-ever independent research – exciting, rewarding, and unforgettable!

My paper is a case study on the amount of public participation training in accredited forestry degree programs in New Brunswick, Canada. The working group within the Sustainable Forest Community-University Research Alliance (a.k.a. “Forest Collaborative”) asked me to research and answer the following question: Are there enough courses provided in New Brunswick to engage forestry students in public participation and to prepare them with necessary skills to work in the forest planning industry? The answer to this question will help the working group propose solutions for enhancing the region’s forest planning.

When I was first assigned to a group of Canadian stakeholders discussing forest planning and public participation, I literally had no idea what they were talking about. It took me almost two weeks to get familiar with terms like “collaborative efforts” and “public engagement.” Cathy Lu Wall - Map!It took me another two weeks to absorb all the other information I needed, including the state of forestry education, forestry planning practices, and the geography of  Canada  (I did hang a huge map in my office and it’s still there). Meanwhile, I started designing the survey and began conducting phone interviews. I ended up spending more than a month talking to about 20 Canadian scholars, educators, foresters, and government officials over the phone – the first-hand notes I took in the one-on-one interviews really helped me develop the structure of my research! Thanks to their diverse perspectives, I was able to have a broader view of the issue.

Two months after I first stepped into the office, I had read and heard enough about what the issue was – enough to get me started writing.  The information I had collected, however, was just so overwhelming that I didn’t even know where to begin. My supervisor, Juliana Birkhoff, spent a lot of time helping me get on the right track. To provide a model for my paper, I looked up the work of others who have done similar analyses; some scholars from the Forest Collaborative team generously provided me with their previous working papers as references. The actual writing time was not as long as I thought it would be – it helps to have a concrete idea of what you would like to say! My lovely RESOLVE co-workers helped me review the draft paper, as did the group members of the Forest Collaborative.  The final 14-page research paper has been delivered to the working group to review. I hope this research project I did over the summer can be of help to the advancement of forest planning in Canada.

- Cathy Lu

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