Brandon Learnard ’12

Brandon Learnard '12

Degree: Conservation Ecology

Where do you currently work? What is your job title? I am a Forestry Intern for the Scientific Forest Management Area (SFMA) at Baxter State Park. I am currently attending the School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine – Orono in the Masters of Forestry program.

What’s a typical day like for you? Wake up at 6 a.m. and in the field by 7. We work four, ten-hour days. We take diameter measurements, heights, live crown ratios, tally tree damage, and do stem mapping. We also walk boundaries and mark them and paint trees for timber harvests. We finish our days at 5 p.m. and retreat to a cabin in the SFMA for the evening or camp onsite.

What qualifications and qualities do you need for your job? No licenses are required. A strong understanding of stand dynamics, ecological processes, map and compass skills, and types taxa in the area.  Also some GIS/GPS experience and a strong work ethic in order to spend hours in the woods without supervision.

What led you down this career path? I have a great will to work in the outdoors. A goal of mine is to work for the State Parks system in Maine and this is a step in the right direction. Also, to comment on being a forester, I want to give back to the world in a positive way and conserving and sometime preserving the forests of Maine is a way that I can leave a legacy for future generations to enjoy, far longer than I will ever be alive.

What’s been the most rewarding experience in your career thus far? Waking up in a rural location and knowing that a full day of work and play in the woods is ahead of me. And, always, the after-work swim.

And the frustrations? Foresters often are not good communicators, so frustration comes from starting new projects and grasping fully what the research is about and what exactly has to be done. Most of the time it’s a trial and error system until a sampling scheme works itself out.

How would you describe Sterling—in one word? Hands-on.

What do you value from your Sterling experience? I do come back to the place-based learning approach often. The opportunity to meet a diverse group of people and a chance to explore the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Also, the chance to travel to unique places and learn while immersed in that area.

What experiences or courses at Sterling contributed to your career path? All the natural history and back country experiences. The GIS courses offered at Sterling provided skills I use everyday. And the land use planning and policy courses help me make educated decisions on options open to me as a forester/land manager.

What is your fondest memory of Sterling? Standing on Mansfield with Alex Gamble in a driving snowstorm.

What advice would you give to current Sterling College students interested in pursuing a career like yours? Get reading glasses, read peer reviewed articles in your area of study, and be open to new ideas because the field is broad and diverse and new concepts are published every month.

Also, before working for the SFMA, I worked for a forestry research cooperative. The Coopertive Forestry Research Unit (CFRU) is a conglomerate of industrial forestry companies, the Nature Conservancy, and the Bureau of Parks and Lands. They fund the cooperative and donate a tract of land to research. This was a great experience to learn the basic measurements and uses of measurements in the forestry field, and I would recommend any Sterling student interested in Forestry to apply for a season of work with CFRU. They offer wildlife research opportunities as well.