Sarah Forsyth never thought she'd oversee the cutting down of trees to save the environment, but her work for the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) has her doing just that.
Sarah’s role is crucial to ensuring an ecologically sustainable harvest of timber for commercial requirements. Her focus is on minimising the environmental impacts of logging by recognising and marking which trees not to cut down.
Sarah works to protect Australia’s wildlife and its habitat by identifying feeder trees and nest sites, and ensuring a protective buffer is applied to each environmentally sensitive community or site.
“This relies heavily on good solid mapping, which is based on SPOT images, location coordinates and government spatial data and forestry logging records, blazed trees and survey maps,” she explains.
Day to day, Sarah draws on a number of practical skills that she gained as a Geographical Sciences student at UQ, as well as her understanding of vegetation communities, watercourse assessment and physical processes. She teams this with her knowledge of technical equipment and mapping programs like ArcGIS, which she specialised in.
Her degree also equipped her with an understanding of policy, legislation and land title, she says, although this area was her "least favourite while studying”.
Sarah says the flexibility of her Geography degree allowed her to tailor her subject choices to her needs.
“There were only a few core subjects that I had to take and [then] I could focus in my preferred area of interest - resource mapping,” she explains.
She believes the hands-on field trips that were an important part of her studies gave her the edge when looking for work.
“The practical side certainly assisted with my interview stage as I had a vegetation assessment example to show comprehension of my now day-to-day processes,” she explains.
The diversity of Sarah’s work means that she is constantly on the go, and despite having just started her career, her top priority is further education.
“Next year I'll complete a certificate IV in frontline management," she explains. "In two or three years I hope to begin my masters [in Geographic Information Systems] while working for DERM forest products.”