Arizona High School Senior Wins International Junior Foresters Competition

Jennifer Smith
International Programs
December 28th, 2020 at 2:20PM
A picture of Lindsey Bell.
Lindsey Bell, a high school senior from Arizona, was unanimously chosen as the winner of the Russian Federal Forestry Agency’s 17th Annual International Junior Foresters Competition. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Bell.

When Lindsey Bell started high school at Trivium Preparatory Academy in Goodyear, Arizona, she had a keen interest in the medical sciences. However, when a friend asked her to fill an opening on the Envirothon team, Lindsey found an unexpected interest in environmental science and natural resources. The field piqued her curiosity and she decided to continue attending club meetings. Two years later, the high school senior is serving as the club’s president, and as the president of her school’s Future Farmers of America chapter.

“Ecology is my favorite facet of environmental science and natural resources because it's complex,” said Bell, “You have to look at every issue and solution from so many different angles, I just really appreciate how holistic of a science it is and how much it affects everything we do.”

Recently, she was selected by the Forest Service to take her curiosity and leadership abroad, to share her research at the 17th Annual International Junior Foresters Competition. Her paper   entitled “Insect Cadavers: A Means to Increased Seedling Growth,” expounded on the use of insects as a natural alternative to synthetic fertilizers.

Bell wasn’t sure how the panel of judges in Moscow would receive her virtual presentation, which she delivered before dawn from her hometown in Arizona. She was in for a surprise. Her submission was unanimously selected by judges as the winning project of the competition.

Bell was up against stiff competition. This year’s event included 30 students representing 20 countries who competed virtually for the top prize. Second place was awarded to Nikolai Timakhovich of the Russian Federation and Arya Duta Yogaswara from Indonesia, and the third-place prize was granted to Milena da Silva of Brazil and Magdalena Jovanoven of Serbia.

"I honestly expected to get dead last due to the nature of the project, so I was completely speechless when I found out I somehow got first,” Bell said, adding that even if she hadn’t been recognized for her project, being at the competition was still rewarding. “One aspect of the International Junior Forest Contest I instantly adored was its ability to bring together a myriad of perspectives on manifold issues and topics,” Bell said. “[Including] material presented by contestants, jury questions, comments and short speeches.”

A picture of seedlings and with text layered on the image that says, Insect Cadavers: A means to increased seedling growth by Lindsey Bell.
Ms. Bell’s winning research paper and presentation explores the possibility of using insects as an alternative to synthetic fertilizers. Screenshot of title slide from virtual presentation courtesy of Lindsey Bell.

The Russian Federal Forestry Agency hosts the annual Junior Foresters’ Competition, which brings together youth from nations around the world each year to discuss environmental conservation and forest ecology. The contestants share their research, words of encouragement and thoughts for future areas of research and the potential of bettering the world through natural resources. Each year, the Forest Service Office of International Programs selects one or two students to attend the event which recognizes young scientists and promotes international dialogue concerning forestry issues.

“This international event is an opportunity to generate interest in global forest issues among young people,” said Lara Peterson, assistant director for the Forest Service’s Russia, Europe and Eurasia Programs. “It is also a chance for students all over the world to showcase their initiatives and research while broadening their knowledge of forest ecology, silviculture.”

The event encourages young adults to participate in international collaboration and scientific discourse, and fosters positive people-to-people connections. It is also one of many ways the Forest Service promotes engagement with partners and colleagues in Russia. In fact, the Forest Service and the Russian Federal Forestry Agency have collaborated for over 50 years on research, technical cooperation and policy issues.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time competing in this year’s International Junior Foresters Contest, and I am so honored to have represented the United States,” exclaimed Bell.

As for Bell’s future in the field of forestry and natural sciences, she is currently planning to study ecology in college next year and has particular interests in forest diseases and ecohydrology.  Beyond college, she has her sights set on a career doing research—maybe even with the Forest Service—or teaching at the high school or college level.