RUSSIA – Zoe Storaasli and Ivy Goodwin, eleventh grade students at the California Academy of Mathematics and Science, recently won Third Prize at the 16th International Junior Foresters’ Competition for their research paper entitled “The effectiveness of different brush removal methods in the Los Angeles area.” The students had received a scholarship from the USDA Forest Service International Programs office to cover the costs of their travel to the event and were accompanied by Jennifer Smith, USDA Forest Service program manager for Russia, Europe and Eurasia. Storaasli and Goodwin’s research included field observations and interviews with hazardous fuels managers on the Los Padres, Angeles and San Bernardino national forests.
The International Junior Foresters’ Competition is an annual event hosted by the Russian Federal Forestry Agency which brings together youth from nations around the world to promote and reward young scientists for their interest and efforts in the environmental field. It also encourages international dialogue concerning forestry and other natural resource management issues. This year’s competition took place from October 27 – November 1 in Voronezh, Russia. Thirty-one young adults, ranging in age from 14 – 22 and representing 27 different countries, traveled to Russia to defend their projects in front of an international jury which included researchers and forestry experts from Russia, Europe, China and the United Nations.
The USDA Forest Service and the Russian Federal Forestry Agency have been collaborating for over 50 years on research, technical cooperation and policy issues. Given that Russia contains over 20% of the world’s forests, it is in the U.S.’s interest to understand trends in Russia’s forestry sector. Most recently, the focus of collaboration between the two agencies emphasizes mutually important themes such as forest inventory and monitoring, wildfire management, illegal logging and climate change. Though direct collaboration has decreased in recent years, information sharing still focuses on these important themes.
Encouraging students and young adults to participate in international collaboration and scientific discourse on these same topics sends an important message about the value of cooperation and helps prepare our future scientists and policy-makers to perform in the international arena. Participation in this youth-focused event is a way to foster positive people-to-people connections among students from around the world.