Speakers Interview - Part 1

IUFC 2018 Speakers Interview Part 1

September 5, 2018 - We sat down with our keynote and invited speakers - Ian Shears, Chris Baines, Susan Day and Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz - and asked them about their professional journey, their favourite experience and discussed the misconception of urban forestry today.

IUFC 2018 keynote speakers Ian Shears   

IUFC 2018 keynote speaker Chris Baines    IUFC 2018 keynote speaker Susan Day    IUFC 2018 invited speaker Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz 
 Ian Shears  Chris Baines  Susan Day  Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz


What got you interested in urban forestry? 

Ian Shears: I started my professional career with an undergraduate degree in applied science of horticulture and with that exposure to some inspirational lecturers who provided clarity on the importance of green in all its forms for cities liveability and the health and well-being of the community, this led to a consulting, teaching and furthering my knowledge by undertaking a Masters Degree.

After time as a consultant I began a 20 year journey in local government, the last 18 with the City of Melbourne. It has been at the City of Melbourne where I have been able to bring urban forestry to the fore as a key strategic approach to combat the challenges of urban heat island, climate change and population growth and densification. My current policy research focuses on understanding the health and economic benefits of green infrastructure, biodiversity and ecology in cities, integrated water management, urban heat island mitigation, the impacts of climate change, catalysing green roofs and walls and the greening of the private realm.

Chris Baines: Through the 1970s I taught landscape design and management whilst also working in landscape contracting and consultancy in UK and the Middle East. Through the 1980s I spent a lot of time in the media, and as a writer I published my book The Wild Side of Town which won the UK’s first conservation book prize and I made the very first wildlife garden at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London.  I also helped to found the first not-for-profit urban nature conservation group, in Birmingham.  This was quickly replicated in London, Edinburgh, Liverpool and many other British cities, and we challenged the traditional mainstream rural nature conservation movement, because we put people, education and the commonplace centre stage.

Through the 90s I continued to write while working with the UK urban forestry movement to influence a programme of cable TV trenching that was cutting through the roots of Britain’s street trees. 

Since 2000 I have worked as an environmental adviser to the London 2012 Olympic Games, to major urban regeneration developments in London and to the ethical and environmental investment industry.  For almost 20 years I have been honorary president of the Thames Estuary Partnership, playing a brokering role for the many and various stakeholders in London’s great tidal river, and I continue to campaign for greener towns and cities and for more accessible nature conservation.

Susan Day: While living in Chicago, I really began to appreciate the role of urban trees, parks, and other vegetation in the lives of city residents. Chicago has a fabulous park system, part of which runs the full length of the waterfront and is accessible to everyone in the city. I wanted to be a part of bringing trees and forests to the city.

Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz: My interests in forestry have always been at the nexus between the natural and human world and the dynamic interplay between the two. For millennia people have adapted to and shaped their natural surroundings, and through my PhD work using dendrochronology (tree-ring science) and community outreach we're beginning to understand this interplay as it relates to wildfire. Without much intention, my professional journey has always focused in forests that are impacted by people, whether they are within the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples, adjacent to large cities, surrounding small urban towns, or simply enjoyed as important green spaces.

My professional journey began in Salem, Oregon, where I studied the history of a research forest that reflected changing human values, from agriculture to silviculture to sustainable forestry. For two years I then worked in conservation management where I began to more fully appreciate the role of wildfire in past, present and future landscapes. After completing my MSc in Manchester, England and working for two years as an environmental consultant, I returned to the Pacific Northwest to pursue my PhD to help communities deal with the risk of wildfire to their livelihoods.


Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

 Ian Shears: Partnering with Melbourne University to establish the inaugural Australian School of Urban Forestry that will run in November 2018. Connecting with so many wonderful people through the auspice of urban forestry. Reading the emails that people write to our trees.

Chris Baines: In the 1970s and early 80s I worked with inner city communities on problem housing estates, particularly in London, Belfast and Liverpool.  In 1981 there were very serious urban riots, particularly around a London housing estate where I was working with local kids.  After the riots, when everything was burned and trashed, no-one had touched the sunflowers growing on the Tulse Hill Nature Garden.  Local children had planted them and everyone knew this made them special.

Susan Day: Too many to say. I mainly just love seeing awe-inspiring trees and public spaces in cities.

Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz: Every step of my journey has provided me an opportunity to learn, grow, and give back to the communities I have worked with, which has certainly been the most rewarding part of my career thus far.


 What is the biggest misconception when it comes to urban forestry?

Ian Shears: It’s not just about the trees, it is about the soils, the water, all flora and fauna, and perhaps most importantly it is about the people who live in the urban forest realm.

Chris Baines: The urban forest is so much more than the trees in a city’s public spaces.  It gains as much from the flower borders in domestic gardens and the wild lands of post-industrial dereliction as it does from the high canopy mature tree cover.  It is the rich mosaic of different land ownerships, land management styles and physical variety in an urban landscape that creates the added value.

Susan Day: That urban forestry is just planting trees. In fact, urban forestry is a field that knits together ecology, management, and society and has countless specializations. There is always more to learn.

Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz: From my perspective, many people consider the urban forest boundary to stop at the edge of city limits. However, wildfire doesn't pay attention to these human-created boundaries and the wildland-urban interface can be a critical conduit or hindrance for wildfire to impact communities directly. It is imperative that we expand the boundary of the urban forest to include these wildland-urban interface areas if we are to protect communities from wildfire risk in the future.



Check all speakers lineup for IUFC 2018 and the detailed program here.


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