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UNBC professor recognized for contributions to forestry research

Dr. Kathy Lewis acknowledged with award from the Canadian Institute of Forestry
Dr. Kathy Lewis
Dr. Kathy Lewis

A University of Northern British Columbia professor has been recognized by the Canadian Institute of Forestry.

The CIF granted Dr. Kathy Lewis its Canadian Forestry Scientific Achievement Award last week. The award recognizes those who have made “innovative and outstanding achievements in forestry research in Canada."

In a statement issued by UNBC, Lewis said she not only felt honoured to be recognized by the CIF but to have been nominated for the award by her colleagues.

Ed Morrice, who recently retired from a career as an instructor and chair in the natural resources and forestry technology program at the College of New Caledonia, nominated Lewis. UNBC subsequently supported Morrice’s nomination.

Morrice, who first worked with her when she taught a forest pathology course at the college, said he nominated Lewis for various reasons, including her quiet contributions to forestry in Prince George as a member of the Association of BC Forest Professionals.

“She is respected by students and forest practitioners locally but across B.C. because of her love of teaching and connecting with undergraduate and graduate students, but also with her contribution to the practice of professional forestry,” Morrice said.

“She quietly leads, is always humble (she is Kathy Lewis, not Dr. Lewis) but is a major influencer. Because she doesn’t ‘toot her own horn’ is all the more reason she should be recognized.”

Morrice added that because the award recognizes the significant scientific contribution and at a national scale, Lewis’ local work might not attract a lot of national excitement.

“But we didn’t have to dig very deep to come across how Kathy’s research work had a national impact. That was her participation as an expert in the national softwood lumber dispute.

“She is a B.C. registered professional forester, and is also a long-term member of the Canadian Institute of Forestry. She has had recognitions from all points on the compass, but this is a first from the CIF and reflects a body of work over a long career that has influenced forestry not only locally, provincially, but nationally,” Morrice said. “It’s important that these quiet but significant contributions are recognized publicly.”

Lewis has championed UNBC’s forestry program since 1993 when it was first offered as a major under the Bachelor of Science Natural Resources Management program. The degree has since been rebranded into the forest ecology and management degree.

Dr. Ken Otter, a biologist and chair of the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at UNBC, said it was an active decision to highlight the university’s approach to teaching forestry and to embed the industry within the larger context of managing the ecosystem.

“When we had the accreditation review, the review team commented that Kathy was a large driver of that ideology during the 2000s at the national level with groups such as the CIF and Association of University Forestry Schools of Canada,” Otter said. “UNBC has taken that approach to forestry since the beginning.”

Otter said Lewis was one of the lead voices who helped drive a new view of building the industry into the larger management of ecosystems for the  services that forests provide.

“She also continues to serve as a role model for a profession that was largely male-dominated,” he said. “It is encouraging to see that influence on the gender representation in our Forest Ecology and Management degree, which consistently has one of the highest proportions of female students amongst the forestry-accredited institutions in Canada.

“Kathy’s impact on forestry and the forest policy in Canada continues to impress me – through our recent accreditation process and all the dealings I now have as chair of ESM, I am awed at the external respect she inspires and the role this has had on having our forestry degree so well thought of.”