According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up 13.9 percent of forest and conservation professionals across the country. At Enviva, we are lucky to have three of the best female foresters in the business, who ensure that forests across the U.S. remain healthy and thriving. They collect important data that ensures the wood we source is sustainably managed, measure forest sample plots, help private landowners to develop certification plans, and assist in habitat and ecosystem conservation efforts. They are vital to the success of our industry, and vital to the wellbeing of the more than 265 million of acres of forestland in the Southeastern United States.
In honor of Women's History Month, we wanted to share their stories and experiences with you. Read on to learn about Ann Hudomint, Lauren Killian and Elizabeth McCombs and what motivates them.
Q: What attracted you to a career in forestry?
Lauren Killian: From going camping with my brother and parents, to working during the summers at a plant nursery and participating in the Future Farmers of America club during high school, I have enjoyed being in and around nature since I was a child. When I was a teenager, I attended a camp at N.C. State that really convinced me a career in forestry would be a great fit. At the camp, I visited Clemmons State Forest, where forest rangers taught me and my classmates about forests. One of the lessons focused on prescribed burning, which I found fascinating. By the time I graduated high school, I knew that I wanted to work outdoors as a forester or forest management professional.
Ann Hudomint: I have always enjoyed being outdoors. I knew that I did not want to work in an office setting or have to dress up for work every day. A career in forestry was the perfect fit.
Elizabeth McCombs: While in college I worked many different summer jobs including working for the state parks in North Carolina, doing honeybee research in North Dakota, and helping with maintenance on the forests at N.C. State. The enjoyment I felt getting to spend so much time outdoors and knowing my work made a difference attracted me to a career in forestry where I knew my office would be the woods.
Q: What do you most enjoy about being a forestry professional at Enviva?
Lauren Killian: One of the things I like most about my job is the variety. With my role, I’m able to mix up my daily tasks. One day, I may be out meeting with forest landowners gathering information about their forest in order to write a certification plan, or giving presentations to community groups about the importance of forestry and the forestry industry, and even collaborating with other professional forestry organizations to promote the restoration of longleaf pine. The next day, I might be out in the field inspecting a logging operation for water quality compliance. Some of my duties also allow me to travel to different facilities and forest tracts, where I can see and understand the variety of forests and help figure out how we can solve on an enterprise-wide scale any challenges that come up. It’s been a learning experience and I’m proud to be a part of it. But the days when I’m in the field are truly the best! Walking in these forests, in areas where people have seldom stepped, you get this mixed feeling of seclusion and exploration that’s just awesome to experience.
Ann Hudomint: What makes this work special for me are the people I get to work with every day. From the loggers and truck drivers to timber buyers and Enviva colleagues, we all have the same goal at heart. We are all here to ensure the forest products industry is healthy and sustainable today and for future generations.
Elizabeth McCombs: I enjoy the work I do – but the best part of my job at Enviva is knowing that our work is important. Ultimately, it comes down to knowing that everything I do is to help us fight climate change, displace coal and improve our planet.
Q: Any fun stories about being out in the field?
Lauren Killian: I was with two other foresters, walking in the forest gathering data a few weeks after a hurricane came through. We found a deflated basketball and noticed a hollowed-out tree. So, what did we do? Obviously, we started playing basketball, trying to see who could make the shot. It didn’t matter that we were ankle deep in water!
Elizabeth McCombs: I was doing an audit with another employee and, of course, our truck got stuck in the mud. We tried, for what felt like forever, to break free, but eventually we just contacted one of our suppliers who came and pulled us out. This may not sound like a fun story, but mud is basically the archnemesis of foresters in the Southeast. We all have mud stories. All of us. This wasn’t my first time stuck in the mud and it won’t be my last. But I know that I can always count on a supplier to help pull me out!
Ann Hudomint: Working in the outdoors, you have the opportunity to experience all of nature and its many wildlife species. Over my 22 years in the woods, I encountered many snakes, which usually startle me more than I do them. While assessing a tract in Eastern North Carolina with other Enviva foresters, the area was a perfect environment for cottonmouths. I was on the lookout as we stepped into the woods. It had not even been five minutes when another Enviva forester who was on a different part of the tract sent me a picture of a cottonmouth sunning himself on a log. Luckily that was the only one I saw all day!
Q: What would you like people to take away from the forestry practice at Enviva?
Lauren Killian: The Sustainability and Procurement teams genuinely care about our forest resources and try to be the best stewards possible. There’s still some learning to figure out, but we are a dedicated group of people who strive to make the best decisions possible in order to promote the health of our forests.
Elizabeth McCombs: I hope they understand the positive impact we’re having on future generations. We are providing an alternative to coal, which is one the dirtiest sources of energy. While our sustainability policies may seem cumbersome to operate under, they are critical for us to have an important positive impact on forestland throughout the Southeast.
Ann Hudomint: I would like for people to understand that practicing responsible wood sourcing is very important to all forestry professionals at Enviva. At the end of the day we’re all trying to ensure healthy forests for the future.