Penn State forestry student works for education and diversity

Kelly Jedrzejewski
February 22, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sky Templeton is passionate about forestry, education and minority representation.

Templeton, a junior majoring in forest ecosystem management with a minor in biology, has been fortunate to be able to explore and advance those interests through coursework and mentoring opportunities provided in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

The Philadelphia native also works with the college’s Center for Private Forests, an initiative that focuses on applied research, education and outreach to students, forest landowners, the forest-products industry, loggers, conservation districts, agencies, land trusts and nongovernmental organizations.

While working with Penn State Extension programs at the center, Templeton saw a need for more accessible information. In talking with mentor Allyson Brownlee Muth, forest stewardship program associate in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Templeton learned about opportunities to receive grants to support the development of educational materials.

Muth explained that she was aware of Templeton's interest in forest biology and desire to help woodland owners care for their woods, and she saw an opportunity to engage her student.

"Based on my work with woodland owners, I knew that invasive plant identification and control remained a large area of concern for these landowners, and it seemed the information sources were not quite meeting their needs," Muth said. "Sky discovered the College of Agricultural Sciences' summer research program opportunity and created a project of interest and need."

Templeton added that about 70 percent of the forests in Pennsylvania are privately owned, so it is important to educate the owners and the public about how to protect these resources.

"A lot of the information we have about identifying invasive plants is written in dense, academic language that’s hard to use effectively," Templeton said. "My research goal was to develop a resource that would translate the data into something the average person could read and understand easily."

To bridge this gap, Templeton developed a publication, "Invasive Forest Plants of the Mid-Atlantic," with help from Muth and then-director of the center James Finley. The purpose of the guide is to help people identify and control invasive plant species on their land. Except for taking the pictures that appear in the handout, Templeton handled virtually all phases of production, including researching, writing and graphic design to achieve maximum readability.

As Muth explained, the guidebook is already a standard Penn State Extension offering and has been for sale since November. Currently there are no plans for similar works, but there is always great opportunity to create resources needed by woodland owners.

"Creating the resources that answer a question or serve a need— and to do so in a way that is compelling, concrete and concise — is always going to be an opportunity for our work with woodland owners," Muth said.

Templeton's primary research interest is looking at how people relate to and understand natural resources. "I didn’t start the project because I have a special interest in invasive species. I just saw the need for more accessibility, and I wanted to prove there was a way to make important information available to everyone because that's the reason we have extension programs."

In the fall of 2017, Templeton was awarded a Society of American Foresters Diversity Ambassador Award. Twenty forestry students from around the country, along with several international students, were invited to participate in a convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, held by the society. Templeton also serves as the vice president of the college's Society of American Foresters' student chapter.

Templeton was one of three students on a panel that focused on increasing diversity within the industry and talked about their own experiences. Templeton hopes to participate in the conference next year as a diversity mentor to help future diversity ambassadors get the most out of their time at the convention.

Templeton also is active in Penn State MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences), serving as the organization's historian and social media chair. MANRRS is a student chapter of a professional organization that promotes agricultural sciences and related fields among multicultural groups.

As for the future, Templeton's goal is to continue working in forestry outreach and education programs.

  • Templeton

    Sky Templeton, at right, a junior majoring in forest ecosystem management, attended the Society of American Foresters' convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here Templeton is pictured with fellow diversity mentor Su Ann Shupp of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 26, 2018