Diane joined the Forest Service in 2009 and is now the Western Nursery Specialist with the Reforestation, Nurseries, and Genetics Resources team, or RNGR. She was born in Wisconsin, but her family eventually settled in California. Growing up, she fell in love with the forest through camping and backpacking trips with her family and by going to Girl Scout camp every summer. That strong connection continues today; now she shows her love by doing her part to grow new forests and strengthen those that have already taken root.
What do you like to do for fun in your free time?
My motto is “work hard, play hard,” so my free time is always filled. I love quilting, reading, yoga, playing violin with a community orchestra, hiking, camping, and spending time with family and friends. I am also an avid geocacher, which involves using a GPS to find hidden containers around the world. Some might say I’m a geo-fanatic.
What do you do in the Forest Service and when did you start working here?
I provide technical expertise to nurseries in the 17 western states and the American-affiliated Pacific Islands on seedling production, native plant restoration, and forest regeneration. To accomplish this, I visit nurseries, organize conferences and workshops, respond to phone and electronic inquiries, write publications, and give presentations at various events. In addition, I am the editor of Tree Planters’ Notes, a journal established in 1950 focused on production and outplanting of native plants for reforestation, conservation, and restoration.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I really enjoy visiting nurseries throughout the western regions as well as internationally. There is so much to see and know about the diversity of reforestation and restoration programs. By far, however, my favorite part of my job is when I know I’ve made a difference. It is so rewarding when a nursery manager tells me they’ve been able to improve their seedling quality, or when I organize a conference or speak at an event, and people tell me how much they learned.
How has your education, background, or personal experiences prepared you for the work that you do now?
My entire career has been about technology transfer. Prior to working for the Forest Service, I worked at Oregon State University for 20 years doing nursery and reforestation research as the associate director of the Nursery Technology Cooperative. During that time, I published numerous scientific articles, conducted many conferences/meetings/workshops, and co-authored the book Propagation of Pacific Northwest Native Plants. With that experience, it was an easy transition to my Forest Service position.
Describe a recent, current, or upcoming project that you’re currently working on.
I always have many projects underway. Since travel and events are currently canceled to keep us all healthy during the pandemic, I’m taking the opportunity to catch up on some desk projects, including writing articles, helping to complete the National Reforestation Strategy, and preparing for a couple of tech transfer events scheduled for this fall.
Describe a professional or personal achievement that you are particularly proud of.
I’m really pleased that Tree Planters’ Notes is thriving now. When I took it over, only nine issues had been published in the previous 13 years, and it was in black and white. I revived this well-loved technical journal and have published an issue every Spring and Fall since 2011— in full color.
Why do you think your field is important?
Nearly all terrestrial ecosystems involve plants, and they all start as babies. Nursery-grown plants are critical for areas affected by invasive species, pathogens, insects, erosion, and other disturbances that render natural regeneration ineffective. There are very few of us specialized in nursery technology. Nurseries throughout the country and internationally benefit greatly from the RNGR program as a source of technical expertise and resources. Our website averages a visit and a download every 11 minutes!
What are some of the greatest challenges confronting your field?
Nurseries are often off the radar even though the use of quality seedlings can make or break a restoration project. Many foresters and project managers have never even been to a nursery. This lack of recognition regarding the importance of nurseries means they are often considered low priority and neglected when it comes to planning, funding, and resources. Many state nurseries have closed in the past several years leading to seedling shortages, especially for small landowners. I wrote about this topic in a recent article.
What are some of the most promising strategies being used by the Forest Service to address these challenges?
With the increase in wildfires and invasive species, the agency has increasingly acknowledged the importance of nursery-grown plants for restoring landscapes. Also, the Forest Service is looking at its role in the country’s potential involvement in the Bonn Challenge, the Trillion Tree Initiative, and other worldwide landscape restoration goals.
How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?
I would like them to view our work as a shining example of responsible and science-based land stewardship. We always have room to improve on that, but this is what we should always strive such that the public sees our work in this way.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?
If you have a passion for what you do, join us!