Forest Scientist

South Africa’s forestry resources cover over 40 million hectares of land and need to be managed effectively to maintain and contribute to healthy functioning ecosystems, economies and livelihoods. Forestry science explores the complex dynamics in forest ecosystems and biophysical and social interactions with dependent production processes and communities who depend on ecosystem services and natural resources for livelihoods.

Forest scientists research, develop and support the management of forest areas for commercial production, recreational uses and conservation purposes. They undertake assessments of changes to the forest environment due to fires, alien infestations, pests and diseases and make recommendations on managing impacts. They make inputs into developing management plans and policy for sustainable forestry.

Forest scientists work between laboratories when processing data, forestry sites undertaking investigations or fieldwork and an office environment when writing and publishing reports on findings. They may consult with forestry operation managers, firefighters and land use planners and other professionals, finding the most sustainable use of forest resources.

Skills

Forest scientists must have a thorough knowledge of all tree species and the ecosystems within which they thrive and key threats to forestry. They will benefit from the ability to map large, forested areas, using geographic data and software, as well as:

  • Ability to conduct extensive and complex research and fieldwork
  • Analytical and critical-thinking ability
  • Project management 
  • Written and verbal communication and presentation skills

Tasks

Analyse trees and forest conditions, identifying factors that impact growth and production yields

Develop short and long-term plans for the management of forests

Supervise and implement forest and conservation projects 

Monitor and evaluate forestry activities according to government regulations

Studies

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Forestry at NMU, SU and Univen

Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Forestry at NMU

Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Wood Technology at NMU

Employers

National, provincial and local government.

NGOs, community-based and development organisations and private consultancies.

Timber plantations and sawmill organisations.

Research institutions.

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