An outdoor enthusiast at heart, Stephanie Ewen was delighted to discover an outdoor career path. While studying sciences at The University of British Columbia, she toured a research forest in Maple Ridge. Her interest was immediately piqued.
Her curiosity about forestry wasn’t held by everyone, however. She recalled family members sending her newspaper clippings of mills that had shut down, anything to discourage her from going into the industry. While they were highly supportive of her higher education, they didn’t see forestry as a viable career path.
“In my heart, I knew I was pursuing the right thing because I was able to be more focused in school. I had a goal that sat well with me. I kept those articles and left them in the envelopes and they’re still in a memory box somewhere right now.”
Sure enough, Ewen began working in the forest industry before she had graduated, spending her summers doing silviculture surveys in northeast B.C., assessing the success of reforestation treatments. Eventually, she began growth and yield modelling work in Kamloops. She was encouraged by several mentors to get as much exposure as she could within different ecosystems, allowing her skills and knowledge to diversify.
She went on to pursue her Master of Science in Forestry at Laval University, which was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Once she graduated, she began doing various subcontracts before applying for a job she said she felt underqualified for. Still, she landed the job and began working as a planning forester for the Alex Fraser Research Forest. This brought her to Williams Lake in 2014.
Ewen thanked a lot of her “champions” who have encouraged her throughout her career. A primarily male-dominated industry, she acknowledged the many “women who have been pioneering in forestry long before [her].” According to the Government of Canada website, in 2016, women represented only 17 per cent of people employed in the forest industry, with a 1.5 per cent increase since 2001.
She encouraged women interested in forestry to pursue their passions, find champions who will rally behind them and to set goals.
“It’s an inherent part of my nature, and I feel lost without a goal to pursue, but I don’t think it’s a skill that as many young people develop in a world of click-bait and instant gratification. For me, it’s been important to have a variety of goals at all times, personally and professionally, that span a range of timelines and difficulties. The long-term goals help you set your course and figure out your priorities while the easy, short-term ones help maintain a sense of accomplishment that help fuel my drive to pursue the bigger goals, especially when I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.”
She also said to not let yourself get pigeonholed early in your career in terms of what your specialties are but to seek out exposure and become an expert in many different areas.
Now, Ewen is the manager of the Alex Fraser Research Forest. She’s been working vigorously on a new program called Wild and Immersive, an outdoor education program primarily for young children. They have a variety of courses, from summer and day camps to their forest school, which runs during the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The program has attracted a lot of kids who are home-schooled, as well as those in traditional schools looking to take some of their learning outside. You can learn more about it by visiting wildandimmersive.ubc.ca.
When Ewen isn’t working, she’s busy raising her three-year-old son and three stepsons, ages 10, 16 and 18, with her partner Wyatt Carter. Currently, she’s training for a half marathon coming up in June in Whistler. Her love for the outdoors extends into weekends, where you can find her hiking, snowshoeing, downhill skiing or curled up by a campfire.
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