Let's Talk Teaching: Robert Froese

Robert Froese recently joined ALES as the inaugural holder of the U of A's Endowed Chair in Forest Growth & Yield. Learn more about Robert, his passion for forests and even how to measure the cross-sectional area of a tree below.

Tia Lalani - 04 October 2022

Although Robert Froese is new to the U of A, he's been passionate about trees and forests since his undergraduate days. Now an associate professor in the Department of Renewable Resources and an Endowed Chair in Forest Growth & Yield, Robert is hoping to ignite that same passion in his students. 

Learn more about Robert — and even get a quick tip on how to calculate a tree's basal area using diameter tape — below. 

A photo of Robert standing on a railroad track in a forested area.What do you teach?

I teach RENR 215 (Forest Measurements) and I co-teach RENR 295 (Forestry Field School) with Charles Nock.

What do you love about your field?

Easy question — trees! I love trees, of all shapes and sizes. Put a few trees together, and you have a stand! That's even better. And put a few stands together, and you have a forest! And what I do is measure and model trees — I figure out how they are, and how they will be as they grow.

What should students who are interested in this topic know?

BA = 0.00007854 times DBH squared. Where does the constant 0.00007854 come from, and does it have units? (Hint: it does. What are they?)

Tell us about your passion for teaching. What inspires you?

How we measure and describe trees is fascinating. We can put together a few field skills and some quick techniques in computers to describe trees and forests in ways that make management and conservation easier. Who wouldn't want to share that with others? If I do it well, I can give my students tools that make their professional lives easier and more effective. I love it when I hear that my students found what they learned to be useful!

What did you miss the most about teaching in person?

Getting outside and getting hands on the tools, and the trees of course!

How do you cultivate a community of practice with your fellow instructors?

I jump at every opportunity to meet and engage with others. Since I'm new, I'm still learning the curriculum, but I have a unique perspective and I see so much potential for our programs to grow. I was so fortunate to participate in designing our new master of forestry curriculum and taking on a role in our forestry program accreditation review. Our students make outstanding professional foresters, and we showed that!

What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

I flunked calculus as an undergrad the first time through. We don't need perfection folks! We need persistence, humility and common sense. A far better mentor the second time made all the difference for me, and the rest is history.

Favourite thing about working at the Faculty of ALES?

I get to work in the Rocky Mountains, and there's no substitute for that. But really, what's made all the difference in my first year-and-a-half are the fantastic people that have helped me find my way around.