Jennifer KotaryIn 2016, NYSDEC Urban Forestry Program Coordinator Mary Kramarchyk mentored her second summer intern, Jennifer Kotary. “The goal of the internship is to expose and recruit forestry students into the world of urban forestry,” Kramarchyk says. “Jennifer’s excellent technical and communication skills helped her fit right into DEC’s program. She was thrown into and completed real work—and “extra” activities so meaningful to the success of the program—that, without her, we would not have been able to accomplish.”

Jennifer Kotary:
Two days after my graduation (’16) from SUNY ESF’s Ranger School, I began at NYSDEC via the Research Foundation in the Urban and Community Forestry summer internship. A connection with Mary Kramarchyk at the New York Society of American Foresters Annual Meeting was the beginning to an internship opportunity to better my understanding of what urban forestry is in action. Now that this internship comes to a close, I realize that as urban forestry initiates and sustains connection between community and the environment, my internship has connected me to a critical passion of mine which includes all things trees.


ESF Ranger School Graduation, where Jennifer celebrates her proudest moment with Director Dr. Michael Bridgen. Photo by June McWarf

People. Urban forestry has connected me to people. I am so thankful to Mary Kramarchyk, Mary Martin, and Sally Kellogg who took me under their wing and amazed me with their adaptive ability to joyfully get done a plethora of responsibilities for the state program. Via statewide ReLeaf meetings, I witnessed the individual personalities of ReLeaf committees flourishing in each New York region. Exposure to NYS DEC’s Bureau of Lands and Forests and the great group of people assisting in statewide forestry is continually inspiring. Lastly, I met an impressive slew of tree-related individuals via the summer’s ReLeaf Conference at Skidmore College.


“Enjoys the outdoors” is an understatement. Jennifer canoeing with a fellow Ranger School student on Cranberry Lake. Photo by Stephen Reiver

The work. Urban forestry has connected me to great work. My internship research involved in-depth exploration of what communities are doing to protect and build green infrastructure across the state. Via Mary’s assigned projects, I was able to produce tangible evidence that there is quite the statewide collective will to plant and nurture an expanding canopy as well as many career and volunteer opportunities to do so. Collaboration was critical, and I was able to assist in resources that will be utilized across the state.


Jennifer and her boyfriend work on their historically noted house in Troy, New York where they raise rabbits, have a garden, preserve food, and cook/heat on a wood stove. Photo by Jennifer Kotary

My involvement in the ReLeaf Conference opened my eyes to the space available to do good work including being elected to the New York State Urban Forestry Council Board. As the Board’s student ambassador, I get to serve as a liaison between the Council’s impressive efforts and my fresh exposure to the field. I hope to better understand the organization’s roots, goals, and accomplishments and utilize this to offer ideas on bringing new members into the fold.

Jennifer walking back from lab on the frozen Cranberry Lake at ESF’s Ranger School last winter with one of her cohorts, Teresa Link.

Jennifer walking back from lab on the frozen Cranberry Lake at ESF’s Ranger School last winter with one of her cohorts, Teresa Link.

My passion. Urban forestry has connected me to my passion. At heart, I am a true tree enthusiast. Every staff member in the Bureau of Lands and Forests has influenced me in some way to further my drive to contribute to the green professionals’ network. A favorite presentation at ReLeaf was the Forest Health Update, where I was thrilled to hear foresters reporting on applying science to manage what threatens today’s forests; to me, this is the fulfilled hope of sound forestry, and it is the proactive prevention of widespread unintended deforestation.


At the ReLeaf Conference at Skidmore College, Susan Beebe of Cornell Cooperative Extension offered a hands-on experience on soil types as they affect tree health. Photo by Jennifer Kotary

I will continue seeking to understand the prevalent connections between urban forestry and forest health. My next endeavor is a temporary position as a NYSDEC Forest Technician in Forest Health. When I’m not biking, volunteering, creating art, enjoying the outdoors, and improving my sustainably-intentioned house/projects I will be working toward becoming a tree doctor of sorts. I hope to possibly complete more schooling at SUNY ESF and add to this great connection between people and trees across the state.