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Field visit and alumnus guidance help boost postgraduate students’ forest knowledge

Posted 21 March

A group of people in front of trees at Cannock Chase forest.

Postgraduate students from Harper Adams University have discovered more about how human and wildlife conservation needs can be met in forests via a field visit – and some guidance from a Harper alumnus.

The students visited the publicly-owned Cannock Chase forest for the visit. The forest is managed by Forestry England, and during their visit the students were guided by Forestry England staff member James Stewart, a Harper Adams graduate who shared his experience with the group.

Lecturer in Forestry and Woodland Nick Covarr said: “Despite it being a bitterly cold day, it was at least a dry one and warmly appreciated by the students who got a chance to see a wide diversity of woodland habitat and stand types managed by Forestry England.

“The visit was attended by postgraduate Forest and Woodland Ecology and Conservation module students.

“These are a mixture of students on courses including MProf Rural Estate and Land Management, MSc and PgD Forest Protection with Conservation, MSc Agroecology, MSc and PgD Forestry Management as well as visiting and Erasmus students.

“This module uses lectures, tutorials and field visits to explore the contrasting management strategies used to accommodate human and wildlife needs in UK forests.”

During the visit, students were able to see a range of different management practices and land types – including forest clearfells, forest planting sites, and some areas of heathland.

They were also able to see examples of Dothistroma needle blight, a disease caused by fungus which affects conifer trees – particularly pines – and which foresters are trained to recognise and manage.

They were also able to hear directly from a Harper Adams graduate about the ways in which his studies had helped to prepare him for his career – and some of the places which they have taken him.

Nick added: “James - or Jim - was an excellent host for Forestry England. He had decades of experience to share with our students and has worked in multiple roles for the then Forestry Commission, now Forestry England, so had a wide range of expertise to draw upon.  

“He spoke fondly of his time at Harper Adams and was a great model to our students of how their studies can help them achieve a career in industry.

“We are very grateful to both Jim Stewart and the local Forester, Scott Osborne, for providing us with their time and learning materials.”

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