Research, urban forestry

Inspiring communities and influencing change: Towards a deeper understanding of arborist roles

Last week at the International Society of Arboriculture Ontario Chapter (ISAO) Annual Conference in Huntsville, Ontario, I had the opportunity to present my two sociological research studies to over 550 delegates: First, an overview of findings from my doctoral work about arborist perspectives on language, labour, agency and education in southern Ontario; and, second, the preliminary results from my postdoctoral research on women’s roles in arboriculture and urban forestry.

The first study examines how arborists negotiate the urban forest, physically and emotionally as a place of work and play, including the pressures of policies, the labour market, technologies, government regulations and the human and non-human agencies with which they are confronted (Bardekjian, 2016a; 2016b. The second study, under the direction of my academic supervisor, Dr. Cecil Konijnendijk van den Bosch, through the Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, examines the current status of women’s participation in arboriculture and urban forestry, with a focus on diversity to enhance collaborative practice and transdisciplinary learning. Both projects offer unique insights into how arborists inspire communities of practice and research.

Arborists in tree tops
Photo credit: Dylan Stevenson

Overall, it was great to connect with so many colleagues and share insights and ideas on innovative practices and research in arboricultural discourses. The conference offered three days of novel strategies and engaging discussion on important issues ranging from soil science, ecosystem services, international perspectives, gender equity, policy and management. The Trade Show also afforded the opportunity to network with industry providers and professionals on a variety of services and merchandise; it also gave me the opportunity to share information about my work with Tree Canada in leading the Engagement and Research pillar of programing with respect to urban forestry efforts at the national level (stay tuned for forthcoming article). The Women in Arboriculture lunch, with an attendance of 120 delegates was a highlight for me; my colleagues and their pursuit of knowledge on a variety of topics continually inspire me. Conversations focused on mentorship, how we can move towards better inclusive practices, professional development opportunities and communities of social networks.

Since my presentation last Wednesday, I have received many responses from women sharing feelings of gratitude and validation for profiling sentiments and experiences of discrimination, workplace harassment and job inequalities. I am heartened by the response and I greatly value everyone’s insights; I am also appreciative that you find this work necessary for profiling the industry, increasing employment retention and recruitment, and improving education and professional development, not just for women, but also for all. Over the coming months, we will be sharing our results through presentations and publications.

I want to thank the ISAO for the opportunity to present my work to such a wide and engaged audience, and for the vote of confidence in nominating and electing me to the ISAO Board of Directors – I look forward to working with you all in continuing to develop a network of practice and research in the arboricultural community.

I am grateful to my mentor and supervisor, Dr. Cecil Konijnendijk van den Bosch for supporting this research and providing guidance, and to my additional co-authors, Dr. Lorien Nesbitt and Barend Lötter for working with me on the analysis and contributing their insights and interpretation on the results. In particular, I want to thank all the participants of our study for sharing your stories and trusting us to communicate them to the wider public.

ISAO Annual Conference 2018: Huntsville, Ontario