UAlberta wins national Quiz Bowl in forestry management

Students earn glory, plus useful skills and contacts

23 October 2017

The prizes included a trophy, a slice of tradition and possibly an advantage in the job market when the University of Alberta won the 2017 Quiz Bowl-all items organizers hope will prompt students in forestry and environmental conservation sciences to compete next year.

The Quiz Bowl is an annual competition of knowledge about forest management, held each year at the Canadian Institute of Forestry's conference. This year, two teams of students from the University of Alberta's Department of Renewable Resources squared off against forestry schools from across Canada. Team 2 landed the title, which UAlberta has taken about half the time since the competition started in 2004.

"The questions cover all aspects of forest management-dendrology, hydrology, soils, geographic information systems, forest mensuration," said Alex Drummond, an instructor and facilities co-ordinator in the Department of Renewable Resources, and the new president of the institute.

The "Jeopardy-like" competition unfolds over several rounds, with contestants risking negative scores for each of the questions they answer incorrectly.

There are a host of benefits to getting involved, said Drummond. Certainly-because the quiz is an entertaining item on the conference agenda that few attendees miss-students have the chance to stand out from the crowd in front of many influential members of the industry they want to join.

"It's not necessarily that you know all your forest management stuff through and through," said Drummond. "It's more that you took the time to invest in yourself, to represent your institution and your program. Going to this conference is a way to differentiate yourself and you can do it even more if you compete on the team."

While second-year forestry student Evan Littauer didn't cram facts for months as a rookie member of the winning team, he did work in advance on what Drummond considers other pertinent skills-fundraising (by holding events that included a group tree-planting day) and learning to approach industry members for financial support.

"It helps to build those networking connections," said Littauer. "It also helped to get those nerves out of the way, before we met people at the conference."

Other valuable benefits that Drummond promotes to students are the pre- or post-conference visits to the natural environment in the region where it is held. This year, the conference was held in Ottawa and 29 students from UAlberta and NAIT who attended used the three days prior to the event to fly into North Bay, paddle on the Mattawa River and visit Algonquin Park and the Petawawa Research Forest, to view very old stands of deciduous trees, including yellow birch and white pine.

"It's a completely different forest and different forest management techniques," said forestry management student Dan Rosichuk, who was particularly glad to see yellow birch up close.

"It's a really beautiful tree. I love the leaf margins and the bark and I wanted to see them because it's not a boreal species."