I’m a forester. That’s a simple description of my profession without much room for misunderstanding – or so you’d think. Therein lies an etymological dilemma for me and my fellow tree professionals.
As a forester I practice forestry, which is the management of forests. In the public mind the term ‘forester’ is often instantly related to ‘chopping down trees’, even though forestry includes the creation of forests and their ecological management and protection, landscape design, environmental protection, wildlife management, and recreation provision for people. In my mind forestry is the union between trees and mankind (read more) but the fact that this is often (wrongly) seen exclusively as an economic relationship, weakens its relevance to my professional work.
I also refer to myself a forest scientist as this rather aptly describes my research activities regarding their growth, ecology and management, although it’s far from perfect as I also focus on trees as well as forests. The term forester does not normally include an element of research or study per se.
I am also a silviculturist as I practice silviculture, or the culture of forests (from the Latin silva for forests, woods and trees). If I were to focus more on individual trees I may prefer to call myself an arboriculturist or arborist, as I would be practicing arboriculture. So silviculturists and arboriculturists are closely related to agriculturists or horticulturists.
I also have an interest in tree biology so I could be an ecologist, or more accurately a botanist, or more precisely a dendrologist as I study trees or woody plants or practice dendrology (from the Greek dendron meaning tree). Or would xylologist be a better title?
All this ological discussion leaves me rather unsatisfied however, as none of the above quite fit the bill for me. My work relates to individual trees, as well as woods and forests, and my studies extend from tree science to the forest ecosystem. I rather like the idea of being a silvologist and of practicing silvology.