A team representing four universities has launched Urban Forestry 2020, a multistate research and networking project examining the challenges faced by the urban forestry profession and devising strategies for advancing the profession.

The team is led by researchers at Virginia Tech, with co-investigators from the University of Maryland, Virginia State University, and West Virginia University.

Urban forestry is the management of trees and green spaces in communities to enhance quality of life and protect the environment. While it has advanced rapidly as a profession over the last 20 years, there are many issues that need to be faced to move the profession forward, according to Lead Investigator Susan Day, associate professor of urban forestry in Virginia Tech’s colleges of Natural Resources and Environment, and Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The research team has assembled a multidisciplinary steering committee to help guide their research project, bringing together leaders in urban forestry and related fields such as urban planning, landscape architecture, and civil engineering to examine recruitment into urban forestry, accreditation of university urban forestry degree programs, and professional credentialing and networking of urban foresters.

“The beauty of the urban forestry profession is its interdisciplinary nature,” said Day, who holds a joint appointment in the departments of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, and Horticulture. “People from diverse backgrounds work together to solve problems with a critical urban natural resource that has a big impact on our day-to-day lives. But the field’s interdisciplinary nature is also a challenge when it comes to networking and education, and the profession is experiencing some growing pains.”

“With widespread urbanization around the country, there is growing demand for urban forestry professionals,” said Co-Investigator Eric Wiseman, associate professor of urban forestry who co-directs Virginia Tech’s urban forestry program with Day. “Our research will help guide recruitment and education of the next generation of urban foresters so that there is a competent workforce to manage our urban forests.”

The project aims to develop recommendations and strategies for enhancing the visibility and standing of the urban forestry profession over the next several years. Urban Forestry 2020 is partially funded by the U.S. Forest Service through the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council. For more information, visit the project website or email Susan Day.

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