Forestry majors attend Kentucky-Tennessee Society of Foresters meeting, win competition


By Lam Ho


On Wednesday, January 27, seven students from the Department of Earth and Environmental Systems traveled to Kentucky to attend the Kentucky-Tennessee Society of American Foresters, where they watched presentations by foresters and professionals from the two states. The students, mostly Forestry and Natural Resource majors, accompanied Dr. Ken Smith, Dr. Karen Kuers, and Dr. Nicole Nunley for a learning experience combined with a competition that tested students’ knowledge on earth systems.

“One of the better things is that it’s a networking opportunity for students. They get to hear from professionals about real-life job issues. At this meeting, private-forced land owners, ethical issues, problems that people encounter when they’re out in the real world,” says Smith.

While the group enjoyed spending time together, the trip was not without work: Thursday was filled with lectures and activities from 8 a.m. until late in the evening, making up about a twelve-hour day. They left the conference having won the Kentucky Tennessee Society of American Foresters (Winter Meeting) Quiz Bowl, however, bringing energy to the day.

The competition, which involved twenty-five students from Sewanee, University of Kentucky, and University of Tennessee, involved topics such as fire science, tree identification, and ecology. There was no music for the Jeopardy-style game, increasing the suspense as the students proved their knowledge of forestry in front of sixty to seventy professionals at the meeting, many of whom had presented on their research and careers. According to Smith, “it used to be more relaxed, but in the last eight or nine years, it has become more of a serious competition.”

The forty nerve-wracking minutes ended in Sewanee’s victory with a total of 3600 points. With scores of 3600, 1400, and 7000, the University of the South stole the spotlight.Gabrielle Marion (C’16) says, “I was really proud of us winning. Those are really big schools, yet we won by a landslide. There was final jeopardy when we could make a wager, and we could not have lost, even if we had lost the final jeopardy.”

In the moment when Sewanee’s victory was absolutely clear, the team rejoiced with the three professors.Marion adds, “There was an overwhelming feeling of joy we all had when this occurred. Dr. Kuers was beaming — it’s not every day you get to see that.”

Smith adds, “Because we know that it stresses the students out and because we’ve lost in the past, this time both Karen, Nicole, and I were very proud of them. You could tell during the whole thing they feel stressed out. It’s a pressure point of the meeting for the students. When they succeed, not only does it make us happy, but it shows the professionals in the state that they are prepared for the real world, even though they’re not at a big school.”

Founded in 1900 by the nation’s first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, the Society of American Foresters represents foresters across the nation as the largest professional society for foresters in the world. The mission of the organization is to “advance the science, education, technology, and practice of forestry,” among other goals, according to their mission statement. Students from Sewanee have been going for decades, and Smith has been bringing students for about two years now. For more information, visit

Photo by Greg Bailey