TFS Returns to Travel: Spring 2022 Field Trips

Yale and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) gather together in Bavaria, Germany for the first time since COVID-19 emerged.
June 27, 2022

By Sara Santiago ‘19 MF

Students at The Forest School at the Yale School of the Environment were busy with multiple field trips throughout the semester, including spring break, marking a return to place-based learning outside of the Northeast under COVID precautions.

Southern Forest Apprenticeship and Forestry Field Trip

Over spring break, Yale Forests offered a field trip to Georgia and held the Southern Forest Apprenticeship, simply referred to as Southern Crew. This is a historic field trip that complements the summer Forest Crew at Yale-Myers Forest and the Winter Crew held in the Pacific Northwest. In the Red Hills of Georgia, forestry students focused on longleaf pine restoration and landscape hydrology. This Crew was led by Forest Manager Matt Valido ’21 MF and Director of Forest and Agricultural Operations Joe Orefice. During the Southern Forestry Field Trip portion, students practiced prescribed burning and learned about forest fire ecology to maintain longleaf pine forests with Tall Timbers.

Isaac Merson ’23 MEM enjoys visiting the young cows on a pecan silvopasture site in Oklahoma that help trample dead leaves into the soil.

Ucross High Plains Field Stewardship Initiative in Oklahoma and Texas

Also occurring during spring break, Ucross offered a field trip for students to gain hands-on experience of regenerative land stewardship and management practices for working lands, including regenerative cattle ranching, prescribed fire, and hunting. The Noble Research Institute hosted Yale students in the fields of Oklahoma, where they had the opportunity to learn about native and invasive grass species, meet cows, and understand the benefits of silvopasture ranching. Students learned the basics of pecan silvopasture, which allows ranches to diversify their income streams. Regenerative ranching practices can help improve water infiltration and stabilize the moisture regime in an area of Oklahoma that is becoming increasingly prone to drought. Cows graze on the cool season grasses which grow under the trees, and help trample dead leaves into the soil, which speeds up the process of soil formation when the cows are kept moving across the landscape. More nutrient rich soil with more available water means healthier trees and more nutritious pecans! This field trip demonstrated the importance of trees on landscapes, even those that are not forestlands. Director of Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative Michelle Downey organized this trip.

Students learn about replanting with species that will be more tolerant of climate change throughout the trip to Bavaria. Photo by Adam Houston ’21 MEM.

Yale-Technical University of Munich Exchange Trip

Yale and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) were finally able to restart their long-running field trip after a COVID hiatus. Our German hosts took Yale forestry students on a fantastic tour of Bavaria, in southern Germany. We admired enormous oaks in the Spessart woodlands, where acorns are planted and stands are tended for hundreds of years. Foresters told us about the risks of climate change to the Norway spruce forests that cover 30 percent of Germany’s forestland, and the steps they are taking to assist migration of new species into the area. We visited castles, churches, and 1000-year-old biergartens, and reflected on the past and future role of wood in creating our structures and economies. We ate delicious German food, swam in the Eisbach river in Munich, and enjoyed the friendship of our German colleagues. Next year students and faculty from TUM will continue the tradition and join us for a forestry tour in the United States.

ELTI’s Panama-based Jacob Slusser (standing center) facilitates a meeting between students and silvopasture landowners in the Azuero Peninsula of Panama.

Spring Break Field Trips to Panama

Faculty and staff of The Forest School maintain close working relationships with colleagues and institutions in Panama, such as the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative’s (ELTI) sites and the Smithsonian Tropical Resources Institute. Spring break field trips focused on tropical forest ecology and restoration to Panama were postponed until May and June because of COVID. However, it was worth the wait! Field trips for Professor Mark Ashton’s course on ecological restoration of tropical forests, ELTI’s engaging people in tropical forest restoration led by Eva Garen and Jacob Slusser, and Professor Liza Comita and Lecturer Simon Queenborough’s tropical field ecology trip to Smithsonian sites such as Barro Colorado Island allowed our tropical foresters to see secondary forest growth, silvopasture, agroforestry, and tropical forest ecology in person.