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Layne Randolph: Instagramming My Way Through the Forest

Layne Randolph in the Green Swamp taking pictures to use for future APSAF posts.

As a typical Gen Z college student, social media is life. I spend way too many hours a day looking at my phone and scrolling through feed on Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and even Facebook. Fortunately for me, the Appalachian Society of American Foresters was looking for people to improve their social media presence. Now, I get to be on social media AND educate people about the topics in which I am most interested!!

The Appalachian Society of American Foresters (APSAF), which is the Appalachian branch of the national Society of American Foresters (SAF) organization. APSAF encompasses Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Each state, and many universities, have their own chapters of SAF which comprise APSAF. Members of this organization range from professional foresters to students studying forestry at universities in the Appalachian region. The goal of APSAF is to strengthen the science, technology and education of forestry practice. To achieve this, they “use the knowledge, skills, and conservation ethic of the profession to ensure the continued health and use of forest ecosystems and the present and future availability of forest resources to benefit society.” I am a member of NC State’s student SAF chapter, but I primarily worked with APSAF at the state level.

I am one of three social media interns, but I am the sole intern representing North Carolina sector. I learned about this internship through my dad, actually. He was the 2020 North Carolina Division Chair of APSAF! I decided to apply because I thought this would be a good opportunity to gain professional experience in the forestry world and utilize the communications skills I have developed through my journalism minor.

I help manage APSAF’s two main social media pages: Instagram and Facebook. Through these platforms, we strive to educate our followers on all things forestry. Each week we make three posts that highlight some aspect of forestry, Tuesdays being specifically for #TreeIDTuesday where we quiz our followers on their dendrology skills. One of my favorite weeks was the week of Earth Day, back in April. For Tree ID Tuesday, I had posted a picture of a buckeye leaf and its blossoms. It got a lot of interaction from our followers, all with correct guesses! Two days later was Earth Day, so I got to compile a bunch of pictures I had taken over the years to celebrate Earth and its beauty. My last post for that week was from the Schenck Forest, part of NC State’s forestry resources, a picture of a snag and information about the importance of snags. All three of these posts got a lot of attention and are some of the most liked pictures on the page! That is a pretty normal week though in terms of posts and content. We make sure to recognize important holidays in forestry along with professional aspects and recent news. Along with making posts, I also interact with the pages APSAF follows on Instagram and Facebook. Through this, I learn new things and also generate connections with those pages and those pages’ followers. It is an endless cycle of connections!!

Layne Randolph holding a glass lizard

            This internship has been a wonderful opportunity, not only to gain experience in the professional world, but also to continue my education outside of NC State University. I have thoroughly enjoyed gathering information for the social media posts. I get to be outside looking for trees to quiz followers on, or neat creatures of which not many people are knowledgeable. One of my favorite parts about this internship has been gathering information and images to share on APSAF’s social media platforms. I’ve had the opportunity to travel from North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains to its emerald coast, and the hidden gems in between.

As a whole, there were no aspects I truly did not enjoy although there were some hiccups along the way. Occasionally a post will have incorrect information because I didn’t do enough prior research. Over the summer there was a week celebrating national forests and I made a post highlighting the national forests that are located in NC. I mistakenly included the Cherokee National Forest and one of our followers, a NC mountain native, questioned the post. Of course, I quickly Google-searched the national forests located in NC and discovered our follower was right. I apologized and thanked him for pointing out the discrepancy. I learned my lesson to always double check information before posting! Another obstacle is when social media platforms are glitchy. Just recently Facebook and Instagram were both down for an entire afternoon, which I am many people noticed. Multiple times this year we have had incidents like that, but fortunately they don’t last too long!

            This internship has been amazing so far! I have a pretty flexible schedule other than the weekly Tree ID Tuesdays, and I have full range of NC forestry aspects that I can post about. I get to choose the topics, how to present the information, the images that are used, and what information to include. A few of the downsides include remote working which limits the connections I can make with the other interns and even my supervisor. We have done a good job of staying in touch via Zoom and GroupMe, but I am looking forward to meeting them all at the APSAF Centennial Meeting in January of 2022!

             Having been in this role for about 9 months now, I am confident that I would like to continue educating people about forestry related topics, even after this internship is completed. Photography has been a passion of mine for many years and working for APSAF really gave me an opportunity to use that passion. Pair that with my journalism minor, and I am extra qualified for this type of job! My long-term goal would be to work for magazines like National Geographic, or Our State (locally), and I feel that this internship has given me a taste of what it would be like to reach a wider audience.