Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in urban forestry?
Kim Zhang: Growing up in the Bronx, I didn’t have many childhood experiences that involved nature. It wasn’t until high school that I accidentally joined the environmental club when I followed my newly met friend to the club meeting. I instantly fell in love with the club and the school garden, the “Enchanted Garden.” It really was enchanting, like I was stepping into another world. I was stepping out of the urban environment into a forest with a natural brook running through it, a pond with fish and frogs, and a colorful understory of plants and shrubs. Following my sophomore year, I participated in the Wave Hill Summer Forest Project internship that introduced me to urban natural areas and working to protect them. These two experiences started me on my landscape architecture and urban forestry path.
What has been your career trajectory?
KZ: I received my Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from SUNY ESF in 2010. Following my degree, I returned to New York City and started work at New York Restoration Project (NYRP), a non-profit environmental organization. I worked on the Million Trees Initiative, planting trees on private properties. I then transitioned into the Capital Department at NYRP, where I worked under two landscape designers to redesign community gardens that NYRP managed. I really enjoyed the work I did here but wanted to learn more about how urban planning and design can impact a city’s vitality. So after three years at NYRP, I decided it was time for me to return to SUNY ESF for my master’s degree in Environmental and Community Land Planning.
Can you tell us some about your current position?
KZ: When I moved back to Syracuse, I found an internship that turned into a full-time position, working on the Save the Rain tree planting program through Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Onondaga County. I recently returned as a program assistant working on the Natural Resource Team. In this role I collaborate with Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District and NYSDEC, focusing on Emerald Ash Borer and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. In addition, I work with volunteer tree stewards, youth, community outreach, and tree planting. My favorite part of the job is community development; I enjoy working with youth, conducting outreach, and getting community residents excited about trees!
What are some of your future goals?
KZ: I plan to take the ISA Certified Arborist exam sometime within the next couple of years. I hope to finish my master’s degree with a concentration in urban planning and park planning sometime soon!
What are your interests in your free time?
KZ: I enjoy watching cooking shows and learning new recipes. From time to time, I bike and enjoy hiking with friends and pointing out trees to them. Within the past year, I gained an interest in terrarium building and make them as gifts for friends.