||It takes all kinds of people, working together as a nationwide team, to accomplish all that is called for by our mission. Take a closer look at just what it's like "on the job" for a few of the people of the Forest Service.
Eini Lowell; Research Scientist, Forest Products Technologist
Maurice Evans; Fuels Planner
Cameron Tongier; Regional Remote Sensing Analyst
Louis Medina; Special Agent, Law Enforcement & Investigations
Khanida Mote; Contracting Specialist
Research Scientist, Forest Products Technologist
On any given day I might be in my office in Portland, in a research laboratory at Oregon State, at the University of Washington, at a tree farm talking to inner city kids about conservation, or out in the field collecting samples. I like that variety, not only in the location but also in the type of daily work I'm doing.
This is real research. I attend national and international conferences and, like any university research scientist, I spend a lot of time at my desktop and laptop writing and reviewing scientific journals. I'm expected to publish and maintain my position as an expert in my field. My field is forest product utilization, so I work with mill owners and others as part of an integrated team of researchers in different disciplines to get value-added products from wood. These products can be furniture, window frames and doors, laminates, or many types of composite products.
We have a strong community focus, especially in the wildland/urban interface areas. For example, I'm currently working on uses for the many small-diameter trees that the Forest Service has to thin out as part of our wildfire prevention program. I want to find ways to use this resource, particularly ways that might benefit the economy and employment of rural communities near the National Forests. This involves looking at new technologies, like small portable sawmills, and helping community economic development leaders in small "timber dependent" towns collect data and make decisions.
This is just one current aspect of a very varied workweek for me. In the summer and early fall, I'm often out doing field work (measuring, harvesting, etc.) and in the winter I write up my research, give talks at schools, attend conferences, and get career training. All year, I'm in contact with the public who request information. What I like best is that I get to do it all - get the idea, plan the project, help carry it out, and then write it up.
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The early morning light is dappled under the big trees and there is only the sound of birds and insects because there's no other person, no buildings, and no vehicles for miles. The ground is wet with dew and the ground is my focus as a Fuels Planner for the Forest Service. I'm out here to measure the density of hazardous Manzanita brush that can grow up to 7 feet tall, with waxy leaves that burn like gas and can allow the flames of a wildfire to leap 15-20 feet onto the crowns of the forest.
Though I often work alone, I'm part of an interdisciplinary team of wildlife biologists, silviculturalists, engineers, wildland architects, and fire management officers. My focus is fuels - brush, vegetation, and forest growth - that can fuel wildfires. I'm a specialized kind of firefighter, working largely in prescribed fire programs. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I work outdoors in the warmer seasons from my green truck with my hard hat, measuring tools, and digital camera. During the winter months, I'm mostly in my office at the computer and on the phone with colleagues. Of course, this is different in different parts of the country.
We plan strategies and implement treatments to reduce hazardous buildups of fuels. This includes thinning, shrub treatments, gravel piling, and prescribed burns. Every strategy has to take into account the effect treatments might have on wildlife habitat, watersheds, forage and coverage, ingress and egress for emergency vehicles, and many other factors. That's why what I do is always part of a team effort of Forest Service experts.
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Regional Remote Sensing Analyst
I'm 400 miles from home today. As often happens, a request came in for my services from a Forest Service region in another part of the country. Sometimes there are even overseas requests. Today though I'm on a soil change detection project in the Southwest. There has been a forest fire and now there's a concern that water runoff could harm an important Native American archaeological site on National Forest land.
Yesterday I flew in a Forest Service Cessna and took infrared digital photos. I've analyzed the infrareds and now I'm on ground "truthing" by going to the location in an SUV and verifying facts to certain standards. I'll then compare what I've found with my aerial photos and satellite data that I have collected.
This is a very short-term change detection project. I also work on other short-term detections that cover time periods of about 10 years, like habitat changes in the spotted owl population. Other programs are long-term, like vegetation shifts over the past 100 years along a river. They all involve aerial and satellite data, ground "truthing", and computer analysis with algorithms.
During wildfire season, I perform real-time interpretation of fire photos, including flying forward-looking radar to see if the fire is jumping the fire lines. Most remote sensing careers are pretty much desk-bound, but what I do is a lot more active and outdoors. Next weekend I'm doing helicopter training in the Grand Canyon!
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Special Agent, Law Enforcement & Investigations
It's pitch black under the big trees as we use special surveillance equipment to watch figures moving around the marijuana garden. They can't see us in our camouflage gear. There won't be any arrests tonight, but it won't be long.
No two days are the same for a Forest Service criminal investigator. I could be looking into anything from a theft of FS property, such as a vehicle or chainsaws, to a personal assault or even a homicide. Violent crime is not common, but we are the front line investigators responsible for anything illegal that happens on FS lands.
I was a big city police officer for 10 years, and many of the same detective procedures and reporting structures apply here. I operate from an office in Albuquerque and handle multiple investigations at once. It could be timber theft, contract fraud, arson, narcotics production on Federal lands, or stealing things like solar panels. Theft of archaeological artifacts by looters is another big area of concern. There is a lot of simple vandalism, but there are also much more serious crimes, like bombings and assaults on FS personnel.
A day in my working life may start out in my office, then I'm in my SUV going to off-road locations, conducting witness or suspect interviews in small rural communities in the evening, and finally bedding down in a motel or even in the tent I always carry in the Bronco. It's the full spectrum of criminal investigative work, mostly in an outdoor setting protecting people, property, and natural resources.
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Most people don't imagine a Federal government contract specialist out in the forest at 8,000 feet above sea level wearing a hard hat. But that's where I am today. I watch a contractor's team climb up to near the tops of a tall stand of trees and plant dynamite charges. Then we all cover our ears as it blows. It's called treetop blasting, and the purpose is to make nesting easier for wildlife in the National Forest. For me, it's simply a site inspection that I'm attending along with the contracting officer.
Later in the day I'm back at the computer in my office about 35 miles outside Portland, Oregon. Along with my seven coworkers here, I prepare solicitation packages, evaluate proposals based on price and technical capabilities, and spend lots of phone time with contractors and government technical representatives. I have to know labor provisions, job categories and rates, and how to evaluate requests by contractors to deviate from contract terms. In short, I do all the things a contracting specialist does in most government organizations - and I get at least 40 hours every year in valuable training for career development in my field.
I work as part of a team under my contracting supervisor to purchase the services, supplies, and equipment that my Forest Service colleagues need to get their hundreds of jobs done. We're all working for the same thing, caring for the nation's natural resources, and that adds an important dimension to the daily routine of contract management.
The supplies we contract for range from small things like solar panels and air conditioners, to heavy construction equipment such as hydraulic excavators. Services include temporary bridge construction, mechanical roadside brushing, water tank rehabilitation, and a host of services related to trees, from growing them in plantations to thinning out stands that are too dense. An example of a contract that might come across my desk is one for forest road reconstruction. It would require me to make an inspection in a site visit, along with the contracting officer, before the solicitation was drafted to determine conditions. Another day spent indoors and outdoors.
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