by Suzanne Sancisi-Frey, Centre for Forest Protection Education and Training Officer
The Centre for Forest Protection (CFP) offered internships for the first time at the beginning of 2023, and what a resounding success they were! Based at Forest Research and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, eight talented graduates embarked on an exciting journey which broadened their science knowledge, honed their research skills and set them on a path towards a fulfilling career.
Whilst witnessing first-hand the critical role that trees play in preserving our environment, the interns acquired practical skills and techniques essential for tree health management and research. They gained hands-on experience in a diverse range of subjects, from wildlife trapping, biosecurity and emerging diseases, to population genetics, disease and drought resistance.
A Day at Kew and a Day at Forest Research
The internships began with a great opportunity to attend a research symposium at Kew, where the Centre for Forest Protection scientists presented their projects and had a chance to network. The interns were an intricate part of this and were able to understand their individual projects in the context of the wider research into forest protection. They were also given a fascinating tour of the gardens by Kevin Martin, Head of Tree Collections, looking at tree diseases.
Another highlight of the internships, was a day at Forest Research. The interns met scientists working on tree health research and learnt about the cutting-edge science they were conducting. They gained invaluable insights into research in labs and woodlands, including the instrumentation used for measuring carbon exchange between forests and the atmosphere. They enjoyed climbing a tower that reaches above the tree canopy and is used to sample the atmosphere.
One of our entomology PhD students really brought to life the threats posed to trees by destructive insects. The interns learnt about pest lifecycles and habits, and the measures taken to mitigate their effects. They saw an interesting selection of pests such as the emerald ash borer and Ips typographus, alongside examples of the damage they cause. Some of the interns were magnetically drawn to the large fleshy larvae of the Asian longhorn beetle.
An introduction to the world of disease detection and diagnosis by the diagnostics team was also a feature of the day. These scientists, who work on the front line in the battle against tree diseases, shared their knowledge and experiences by demonstrating some of the lab techniques, both traditional and molecular, used for isolating, detecting and identifying quarantine pathogens.
The interns also had a fascinating glimpse into the future of field diagnostics by exploring Forest Research’s state-of-the-art mobile laboratory, along with the specialist miniaturised diagnostic instruments on board. They learnt about detecting pests and diseases in the field and heard how the mobile lab enables rapid responses for the protection of our trees.
CFP Internships – A stepping stone to success
The CFP internship offers much more than the obvious science and research-based benefits. Through a careers session organised by early career researchers at Kew, the interns had the opportunity to interact with experienced professionals to help them weigh up the pros and cons of PhD research and explore other career paths in forest protection. The interns found this exercise insightful and it helped clarify their career options.
Another unique aspect of the internship was the incorporation of science communications into the scheme. This exciting opportunity enabled the interns to take part in a short documentary film that recorded their activities, views and experiences during the internships. This is well worth a watch and gives a real flavour of the CFP internship experience. The film can be viewed here. The interns were also encouraged to record their own internship journey creatively . Take a look at our blog pages to see some of their internship diaries.
We will be advertising our next internship posts soon, so keep an eye on our website!