Are you looking for a way turn a love of trees into a meaningful and rewarding career? You may want to consider a career in arboriculture. This field involves both the scientific study and physical care of trees, shrubs, vines, and other woody plants. To learn more about what is involved with a career in arboriculture from an expert, we were fortunate to interview Dr. Brian Kane of UMass Amherst for How Do You Science. Dr. Kane was generous to share his professional experiences with our HDYS readers:
Dr. Brian Kane, ISA Cert. Arb. #NY-0448
MA Arborists Association Professor
Dept. of Environmental Conservation
1. What do you do for work and how does it use science or STEM principles?
My job has three parts: teaching, research, and outreach. I use science in all of them. I try to incorporate the scientific method in all of my teaching and outreach work (outreach is partly interacting with consumers and professionals to help them understand and practice proper tree care). And I obviously use science when I conduct experiments.
2. What level of schooling or training does someone need to get this job?
Most jobs at public universities require a Ph.D., but there are some that require only a Master’s degree.
3. What is the most unique/enjoyable part of your job?
I get to be my own boss most of the time. For example, I can decide which research projects to work on, and, with some limitations, which classes I teach.
4. How did you become interested in doing the job you have?
I used to be a professional arborist, and I became interested in teaching and research when I realized that there are many aspects of Arboriculture that needed to be studied experimentally.
5. What advice would you give someone hoping to find a job in your profession?
I would encourage anyone who likes being outside to consider a career in Arboriculture. It’s a great way to make a living, there are plenty of career opportunities in New England (and across the country, too), and there are different mental and physical challenges on every job you do. It’s also critical to obtain a good education in Math and the sciences. Biology, Chemistry and Physics are part of nearly every aspect of Arboriculture. For example, you need to understand soil chemistry if you want to fertilize a tree to help it grow, and you need to understand physics to know how big a branch you can rig safely from the tree to the ground.
6. If someone wanted to learn more about the type of work you do, where can they learn more?
The best thing to do is enroll in the UMass Pre-College program in Arboriculture. Any high school student can enroll, and we teach all the basics of Arboriculture. If you’re old enough, you can also try to find a summer job with a tree care company—just make sure the company has a Certified Arborist on staff and that they have the proper insurance.
Dr. Kane provided some great real-life information for anyone who may be interested in learning more about a career in arboriculture. Perhaps you aren't sure if pursuing a Ph.D. is for you, but there are still many different opportunities to work within this field at many different levels. If you are interested in learning more from Dr. Kane about the many different aspects of his profession, he can be contacted by email at bkane[at]eco.umass.edu or through his UMass webpage.
Before you leave, check out some of these related videos from Dr. Kane and visit their UMass Arbor Facebook page to see arboriculture in action.
How We Science is moderated and edited by the staff of the Natural Resources Trust of Easton.