While most teens were enjoying a much deserved summer break, South Tahoe High School seniors Emily Barnett and Tyler Myers were prepping for an international competition. With the support of their teacher and Forest Service (FS) employees, they presented their field research project, “The Effects of Fire and Forest Thinning on the Biodiversity of Understory Plants in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” at the 9th Annual International Junior Foresters’ Competition.
Apparently hard work does pay off…they won Third Prize amongst 52 projects presented by students from around the world. The students were honored during a concert celebrating “Day of the Forest Worker” in Moscow, during which the host and Head of the Russian Federal Forestry Agency, V.N. Maslyakov, presented their prizes.
The competition held Sept. 12_14, is an annual event that brings together young scientists from many nations to promote and reward their efforts in the environmental field and encourage international dialogue concerning forestry issues. This year, close to 100 students from 35 countries competed. The students’ projects (a written report and a 10 minute presentation) were judged by an international panel of fifteen forestry experts. This was the first time the United States participated in the competition.
Barnett and Myers’ project grew out of their participation in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit’s (LTBMU) Youth Conservation Corps. Joy Barney, conservation education specialist for the LTBMU, and Hugh Safford, regional ecologist for FS Region 5, provided guidance and support for the project, but the students handled much of the data collection and analysis on their own. Because Barnett and Myers were both employed with the LTBMU’s Botany and Aquatics Crew this summer, they worked on the project in their free time. “At first it was just another idea we would longingly joke about, but as time went on, we started to talk seriously about it and started making plans. Immediately after school ended in June, Tyler and I were out in the field collecting data with Hugh and his crew,” Barnett said.
The students’ participation in this competition is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Forest Service and the Russian Federal Forestry Agency. These two agencies have collaborated for over 50 years on research, technical assistance and policy issues. Like the U.S., Russia contains temperate and boreal forests that share similar species, forest health problems and common threats.
Barnett and Myers received scholarships from the FS International Programs Office to cover the cost of their international travel, and all in-country expenses for all competitors were covered by the Russian Federal Forestry Agency.