Tom Roberts, a student from Cumbria University, is celebrating after winning the Tilhill Forestry award for ‘Best Dissertation’ along with a prize of £250.

The Award was presented by Andrew Vaughan, District Manager for Tilhill Forestry in Central Scotland.

Tom’s dissertation was a study of subsequent crop performance following biomass harvesting, highlighting that growth of second rotation crops could be adversely and significantly affected by removal of brash in addition to traditional stem only harvesting. Thus, although biomass harvesting might generate additional client income, on poorer nutrition sites, this may lead to higher input and crop establishment requirements.

Andrew said “I think this type of practical field research provides graduates with an opportunity to develop meaningful, cutting edge expertise that is directly relevant to their future careers and employers.’

Tom said: “It feels great to end my university education and begin my career in forestry on such a high. I’m grateful that companies such as Tilhill Forestry offer a prize as it makes all the hard work even more worthwhile.

“I have actually just graduated after studying BSc Forest Management. My final year in education was challenging and my studies were wide-ranging. I gained excellent knowledge of forest management planning and how forward thinking is of the utmost importance if we are to design and plant forests that are productive, ecologically and recreationally beneficial, adaptable to a changing climate and also efficient at sequestering carbon, both in the trees and the soil. My more general studies also allowed me to learn in great depth about starting, developing and running a business which is invaluable knowledge to have attained at such an early stage in my career.

“For any potential students looking to get into forestry I’d tell them not to hesitate in applying for a course! I was astounded at the sheer number of job roles one industry could offer, there really is an opportunity for everyone to be part of a growing (no pun intended), sustainable and rewarding sector.”

Dr Andrew Weatherall, Senior Lecturer in Forestry and Conservation Biology added: “Tom Roberts has undertaken a fantastic dissertation study comparing the effects of whole-tree harvesting, fertilisation and herbicide on subsequent tree growth. His study was based on three Forest Research trial sites established in the 1990s across northern Britain. The significant results from his excellent analysis were that keeping brash was a benefit to tree growth at two sites, fertiliser unsurprisingly benefitted tree growth at all sites and, interestingly, that herbicide adversely affected growth at two sites.

“Tom has been one of a number of terrific students in this cohort graduating from the National School of Forestry, University of Cumbria in 2018. Our courses comprise BSc (Hons) Forest Management (with and without placement) which Tom was on (and also receives ICF best student award for), FdSc Forestry, BSc (Hons) Forestry top up and BSc (Hons) Woodland Ecology and Conservation (with and without placement). The Woodland Ecology and Conservation course shares two thirds of the Forest Management programme to ensure these students have the option of applying for commercial forestry jobs.

“A couple of our graduates, Ben Crisford and Rob Coltman, have joined the Tilhill Forestry graduate scheme (Ben received our inaugural Woodland Trust best BSc (Hons) Woodland Ecology and Conservation award).”