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Not Your Average Summer: Promoting North Carolina’s Forests

Two College of Natural Resources students, Abigail Ridge and Kristen Fontana, are interning at the North Carolina Forestry Association (NCFA) this summer, assisting the organization’s efforts to promote the long-term health and productivity of the state’s forest resources and the industries they support.

Ridge, who has been working with the NCFA since April, is a rising junior majoring in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology. Fontana, who has been working with the NCFA for a year, recently graduated with a degree in natural resources but will continue her education this fall through NC State’s Climate Change and Society master’s program.

During their time at the NCFA, Ridge and Fontana have assisted the organization with a variety of projects, including creating educational material, assisting with communications and updating member databases.

Ridge has worked with the education department to prepare materials for the Sustainable Forestry Teachers Experience program. She is now working with the communications department to share the organization’s goals of healthy, productive, and sustainable forests with young adults on social media.

Fontana is currently creating climate change education tools for teachers. “Right now, I am working on creating educational rack cards on carbon sources and sinks along with the important role our forests play in mitigating climate change,” she said.

Abigail Ridge poses with Madison Dezarn, a Resource Management Service intern and NC State student, at the Sustainable Forestry Teachers Experience in New Bern, North Carolina.

In addition to projects, Ridge and Fontana have also enjoyed a number of field trips during their internships at the NCFA. That includes visits to Resource Management Service, a timberland investment firm, and the Hofmann Forest along the coast.

“This internship has allowed me to visit members from our association that have shown us the steps of a logging job so I now have a better understanding of the different machines and methods of planning that go into this,” Ridge said. “Going to different stands at different ages is something I was not given the opportunity to do before this internship and it really gave me a greater understanding of how succession works as well.”

For Ridge, the internship has provided her with an opportunity to learn about careers in forestry and natural resources, including those in the field. “I know my main goal is to have a job where I can work outdoors,” she said.

Ridge came to NC State as a Life Sciences First Year student, and with some guidance from her advisor, she decided to pursue a degree from the Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology program — a curriculum that has allowed her to understand how the different sectors of natural resources interact with each other.

She has since applied this knowledge at the NCFA, including her work on an educational poster detailing the impacts of clearcutting. “I have learned so much about the mechanics, politics, and practices of forestry,” Ridge said.

Kristen Fontana climbs up on a shearing machine while visiting member firm Research Management Service, LLC, in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Fontana said her internship at the NCFA has allowed her to learn about forestry and gain experience as an educational content creator, aligning with her long-term goal to work in environmental or natural resources education and communication. Her passion for the environment led her to major in natural resources, and she’s been able to use her knowledge of dendrology, forest carbon, and carbon markets in creating social media content and educational materials.

“This major far exceeded my expectations as I learned about topics I was previously unaware of, such as the importance of forest and wildlife management,” she said. “Now I am about to begin a one-year master’s in climate change and society here at NC State University, and I could not be more excited.”