OUFC’s “Making Cities Resilient” Conference Testimonial

Authors: Julian Alvarez-Barkham, Jaqueline De Santis, and Johnpaul Loiacono, Forestry, University of Toronto

The 2019 OUFC Conference, “Making Cities Resilient,” provided an invaluable opportunity to hear from a wide range of professionals in our field about important and current topics in urban forestry.

One of the first speeches was delivered by Oakville Mayor Rob Burton on the work done by the municipality to increase canopy cover. It was inspiring to see a politician so engaged in tackling the challenges of urban forestry. Oakville represents a good example of how we can achieve resilient cities when local governments make environmental sustainability a priority.

Mayor Rob Burton of the Town of Oakville says “Let the trees do it!” at the Ontario Urban Forest Council’s Annual Conference.

The Mayor’s presentation laid a good foundation for Michael Rosen’s illuminating talk on urban forest management across Canada. He provided an overview of the great work being done by municipalities coast-to-coast, as well as a reminder of further advancements that can be made. Rosen’s tribute to Dr. Erik Jorgensen was inspiring and was especially poignant because of the anecdotes recounted by Dr. Jorgensen’s daughters.

Mike Rosen, Tree Canada pays tribute to Erik Jorgensen by presenting historical heirlooms to Jorgensen’s daughters and the Ontario Urban Forest Council (OUFC)

Keynote speaker Dr. Christian Messier’s talk about building resilient ecosystems for urban sustainability offered interesting insights about using functional traits of tree species to help support forest managers in selecting the right tree for the right place. The tool he and his colleagues are developing to help urban foresters diversify their forest is very exciting, and we will all be following his work closely.

The day was wrapped up with an interactive “Solution Room” activity to stimulate discussion and collaboration in solving common urban forestry problems. Conference attendees were asked to assume the role of a stakeholder in a roundtable discussion and come up with a creative solution to the issue at hand. This provided us with examples of what real-life situations urban foresters could encounter, the interdisciplinary nature of our work and an opportunity  for us to learn from professionals with many years of experience.

 The introduction of the OUFC mentorship program was very exciting news, especially in light of our recent completion of the University of Toronto’s Master of Forest Conservation (MFC) program. Every young professional can benefit immensely from a mentor and this is no different in the field of forestry. Mentors are helpful at all stages of a career but perhaps most critically so at the start. The opportunity to learn from the experience of others, gain useful insights, and build valuable skills will be essential to our professional development. Mentors are especially indispensable in building a robust network to support and guide us throughout our careers. Interaction with a wide range of professionals during the MFC program and conferences such as the OUFC’s has fuelled our excitement to enter our field. We are looking forward to enrolling in the OUFC mentorship program and are eager to meet our future mentors.