South Tahoe teens selected to represent the United States in Moscow

South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – South Tahoe High seniors Emily Barnett and Tyler Myers will travel to Russia to present their field research project, “The Effects of Fire and Forest Thinning on the Biodiversity of Understory Plants in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” at the 9th Annual International Junior Foresters’ Competition. Their project was selected by the U.S. Forest Service International Programs office in Washington DC to represent the U.S. in the upcoming competition.

The competition, which will be held in Moscow September 12 through 14, 2012, is hosted by the Russian Federal Forestry Agency. This annual event brings together youth from nations around the world to promote and reward young scientists for their interest and efforts in the environmental field and encourage international dialogue concerning forestry issues. This year, 60 students from 32 countries will be competing. An international panel of fifteen forestry experts will judge the students’ projects. This is the first time the United States will attend the competition.

Barnett and Myers’ project grew out of their participation in the Generation Green Program, a student club advised by teacher Maria Luquin and the Forest Service’ Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit’s (LTBMU) Conservation Education Specialist, Joy Barney. Through this program, they learned of a summer internship opportunity with the LTBMU, and in 2011 both worked as members of the Youth Conservation Corps. The internship motivated them to assume the leadership of the Generation Green Club during the 2011-2012 school year: Tyler as president and Emily as secretary.

During the school year, the two learned of the opportunity to apply to compete in the international competition, and began designing a project. According to Emily, “At first it was just another idea we would longingly joke about, but as time went on; we started to talk seriously about it and started making plans.” Joy Barney put them in contact with Regional Ecologist Hugh Safford, Regional Ecologist for the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, who agreed to advise the project. Emily continues, “Immediately after school ended in June, Tyler and I were out in the field collecting data with Hugh and his crew.” Because Tyler and Emily are both working on (or with) the LTBMU’s Botany and Aquatics Crew this summer, they have worked on the project (field work, data analysis, and a 20 page paper summarizing their results) in their free time on Fridays and weekends.

The students’ participation in this competition is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Forest Service and the Russian Federal Forestry Agency. These two agencies have collaborated for over 50 years on research, technical cooperation, and policy issues. Like the U.S., Russia contains temperate and boreal forests. The forests share similar species, similar forest health problems, and some common threats. In addition, both countries benefit from exchanging lessons learned through their extensive experiences in forest research and management. Both agencies are committed to engaging youth in innovative projects and fostering long-term interest in careers focused on natural resource management. Barnett and Myers have received scholarships from the Forest Service International Programs Office to cover the cost of their international travel, and all in-country expenses for all competitors will be covered by the Russian Federal Forestry Agency.

Emily Barnett and Tyler Myers gathering vegetation data for their research project,  which they will present at the 9th Annual Junior Foresters Competition in Moscow.
Emily Barnett and Tyler Myers gathering vegetation data for their research project,
which they will present at the 9th Annual Junior Foresters Competition in Moscow.