Tree Sparks interviews Julia, a Forestry student from the University of Padova in celebration of International Women's Day 2019.
What do you study?
I'm Erasmus Mundus scholar, my program is MEDfOR - Mediterranean Forestry and Natural Resources Management. I study in the University of Padova, Italy, at the Department of Land, Environment, Agricultural and Forestry, 1st year of Ms degree.
I have a Bs degree in Forestry as well, which I got a few years ago in Russia. I've decided a while ago to pursue a Ms degree abroad, and Forestry just came naturally. In a prospect of climate change and all related actions, failures, disbeliefs, attempts to do something, studying Forestry has never been such an opportune and right decision.
Larch is my first and ever-last love. Often seems so fragile, this species stands all cold and severe Siberian and high altitudes climate. Those beautiful seasonally changing colors never cease to amaze me.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing forestry today?
Forestry has always been a complex and multi-approach system in terms of objectives and decisions unlike other sciences. I'm often asked: "What actually do you study? How to cut trees?". People just don't realize that Forestry isn't only about trees. It's also about Earth's sustainable well-being, flexible, effective and transparent resources management to live and breath. In Forestry, we don't see results right now and sometimes it hard to believe for people that our attempts work and matter.
Another challenge that I face is being a woman in science, Forestry particularly. We're only 4 girls out of 12 MEDfOR students here, in Padova. We're in male-dominant world. We have to work more, push ourselves harder, raise our voices to be heard, prove our points of view more to be taken seriously. It's a thorny adventure full of breakthroughs but it definitely worths every spent second and a tired sigh.
Later, I see myself as an experienced PhD student. I definitely want to leave some footprints in research about tree ecophysiology related to climate change. I've just started my professional way and try to network and attend profiled events and activities as much as I can.
Advice for future female foresters?
Decide first, if Forestry is really worths your time and energy. If yes, you should understand, there'll be failures, long and exhausting fields trips, sleepless nights, heavy equipment, constant alertness, multi-tasking and hard work - these are parts of every solid project. Do your best, don't be afraid to ask, be active, enlist support from your loved ones, share and get knowledge as much and often as you can. But don't forget that your mental and physical health is your primary focus. Take care of yourself, drink enough water, get enough sleep, follow healthy routine, socialize, take time for hobby and family. In hard moments I remind myself that I'm not alone and right now, probably, I'm creating a history. I'm finishing my thoughts by Jewish wiseman Hillel's words: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?"