ROCKPORT, Calif. (February 28, 2018) – This past October, Mendocino® and Humboldt Redwood Forestry worked with Humboldt State University (HSU), Wildlife Techniques professors to coordinate a weekend long surveying trip on company timberlands in Mendocino county. HSU wildlife students gained valuable experience practicing wildlife surveying techniques. The program has turned into a bi-annual trip and was originally founded by Mendocino and Humboldt Redwood Forestry employee and HSU Alumni, Shad Scalvini. Additional employees including Robert Douglas and Krista Savonen, helped coordinate and lead the trip. The first expedition took place in 2016 when Shad Scalvini met with an HSU professor who voiced an interest in creating a hands-on learning opportunity for students.
“I ran into wildlife professor, Anna Davidson while in Arcata in spring of 2016 and we had the first trip later that year,” explains Scalvini. The most recent trip, in October 2017, included 50 students; a mix of undergraduate, graduate, and recent grads who wanted to help. October marked the fourth excursion.
The trip began on a Friday afternoon. Students arrived to setup camp, and then created small mammal traps, track-plates, game cameras, and mist nets to prepare for animal surveying. In addition to tracking and researching animals by capturing them, company employees also taught students how to analyze animal tracks through the mud to identify various species on the property. In one case, a bear’s tracks were found through the campsite and were then examined. Eventually, participants were grouped into smaller clusters: one group studied animal tracks while the other group captured species to conduct research. Scalvini explains that it is all a learning process.
“The main goal is to teach students how to identify a species, put a band on them, capture, hold, weigh, and ID them. Students also learn how to safely remove animals from nets, as well as properly set up the nets in the first place,” explains Scalvini. The main intent of the trip is to support students by teaching them ways to put their skills in action; they are asked to apply classroom-learned techniques to a real-life, hands-on scenario.
In a few cases, the trip has resulted in full-time employment for participating students. Scalvini believes the program has been very successful.
“The experience sheds a positive light and educates the public about the company. I also use it as an avenue to find potential hires,” explains Scalvini. At the end of the trip, the students communicated that it was the “highlight of their semester: the area was amazing, and beautiful.” They expressed that the trip encouraged them to experience the true nature of “what it means to be a wildlife biologist.”
In addition to preparing students for a career in wildlife biology, the expedition gives the company an opportunity to strengthen ties with the community and increase awareness of its sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. Upon arrival the first night, employees discuss the company’s Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC® C004495) certification and what that means. Students are taken to a recently harvested area and are shown the process of pre- and post-harvest.
“A significant number of students come on the trip with a negative view of what goes on in the lumber industry in general. This experience is an avenue to inform participants about our high standards of environmental protection and stewardship” said Scalvini.
The trip helps dispel negative perceptions. It also helps students apply classroom knowledge in a hands-on setting. HSU students leave with a better understanding of Mendocino and Humboldt Redwood Forestry practices and principals and the various ways they can apply their skills of research and analysis in the field. The company is exploring expanding the experience to involve more employees, community members, and students.