Hello, my name is Aurelia, but most people call me AJ! I’m currently a fourth-year forestry student majoring in health and protection at Lakehead University. My forestry journey definitely began as a small child when my parents would take me to forage for mushrooms and wild berries. I had always been fascinated with the large trees that surrounded me and had always been my place of comfort. I grew up playing in forests, catching frogs in ponds, and snakes in the bush. I had always had a connection to the forest and realised from an early age that being amongst the trees made me happy.
Alas, my forestry journey wasn’t evident to me from the beginning. I was a very creative child, oftentimes needing a pair of scissors and a cardboard box to keep me entertained for hours. I still remember telling my mom that, “I need real scissors that cut and not safety ones!” I was always coming up with new games to play with my friends or figuring out how to make something off “Art Attack!” (Who remembers that beauty of a childhood show?) Throughout high school I had attended art classes which led me pursuing my first passion: Art. My artwork was always based on nature and the natural world, often being inspired from forest walks or the animals I’ve encountered. I attended OCAD University after high school, following in my art teacher’s footsteps, and majored in sculpture and installation. I was always creating sculptures that tried to bring awareness to environmental issues and endangered animals with little to no success. I had tried starting an art career after graduation, but the Toronto art scene proved to be too competitive.
Now here I was, working a dead-end job in the ‘big city’, all art-ed out, and needed to spruce up my life (maybe pun intended). I was having a conversation with my best friend Jaak, who asked me the pivotal question that changed my life: “Do you make art because you love nature, or do you love nature because you make art?” From there on, I knew that I loved the natural world that surrounds us and had decided to find jobs that would help preserve our forests. I was researching several jobs within the natural resources industry, and the idea of becoming a forester resonated with me. I had begun to make my journey a reality. It had been almost two years since I graduated university, and to get into the forestry program at Lakehead I had to complete additional high school courses. I was working full time while completing courses at night, proving to be more challenging than anticipated. I had pretty much interpretive danced my way through my previous degree and learning about biology and chemistry seemed like a second language to me.
I had been met with nothing but doubts from my superiors at work and acquaintances, but I persevered. Their doubts fuelled me to prove them wrong and realise that I deserve to be better. With the support of my best friends Jaak and Brittany, and my parents, I finally did it. I finally quit my job after almost seven years, packed up my bachelor apartment, grabbed my fat cat, and moved to Thunder Bay. This is when my life really began. Throughout my three years at Lakehead, I have met many likeminded, kind people that I could not live without. My professors are inspiring and great mentors, with many of whom I’ve had countless great conversations (shoutout to Dr. H!). I believe Lakehead University has given me the proper skills and knowledge to be successful in my future forestry career!
For me, work experience has always been an important factor. Last summer was my first time working a forestry summer job. I was a Silviculture Intern with Rayonier Advanced Materials in Chapleau and Timmins, Ontario. My supervisors, Denis Ayotte and Paul Wheedon, had taught me the ins and outs of silviculture, how to be a proper tree checker, and ensuring that I was always prepared for the task at hand. The only thing they didn’t prepare me for was the abundance of black flies, horse flies, deer flies, and mosquitos! It was a rough summer of bugs, heat waves, and black spruce bogs. The summer was a success even though COVID almost stopped it from happening. I was finally able to put some boots to the ground and ensured myself that I was on the right track.
This takes me to present day- working for Weyerhaeuser in Grande Prairie, Alberta. I was hired as a Woodland Intern, which allows me to work in all parts of the forestry industry: Silviculture, planning, and operations. Keep reading on to follow me and my summertime journey with Weyerhaeuser! I hope you’ll enjoy my adventures.