12 Faces of Arb – Researcher, Emma Schaffert
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January 8 2019

With news headlines about female inequality and glass ceilings still all too common in the media, the Women in Arb group, is committed to challenging misconceptions and proving that careers in arboriculture are truly for everyone.

With our ‘12 Faces of Arb’ feature, we’ll be taking a look at 12 inspirational women who’ve chosen to make their living in this sometimes tough but always exciting industry.

This month we’re getting up close & personal with Emma Schaffert.

Emma Schaffert

"Since a young age trees have been a huge focus of my life, coming from a very green-fingered family. I knew I wanted to be outdoors as much as possible in my career and working in the tree industry made sense.  As an arboricultural researcher, you’d probably expect that I work indoors in a laboratory with microscopes and a lab coat. While there are times that is what the position calls for, I also get to work outdoors for a good amount of the working week, sometimes inspecting trees for pests and disease issues or conducting research projects all over the country. I’ve worked in some of the royal gardens, attended conferences, have been to events such as the RHS flower shows, marched through London with a tree in my backpack for the Lord Mayors parade, and volunteered on projects such as war memorial tree plantings in Northern France."

"The Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory in the UK was opened in 2001, and 11 years later I joined the company full time.  As researchers, we regularly design, implement and monitor research trials, investigating new products and novel methods for improving tree health. With the increasing awareness of the persistence of pesticides and dangers to the environment, the need for organic and low impact treatments for trees are of greater importance than ever. The days of soil sterilants and other toxic products are thankfully a thing of the past, and the industry is looking into more natural options for some of the more severe pests and pathogens affecting amenity trees. This is where my area of expertise is centered, as Bartlett has taught me to look down at the soil as much as looking up to the crown of trees. A huge amount of a tree’s health relies on soil characteristics and soil biology, and interactions between roots and microorganisms. At recent conferences, several speakers and notable members of the industry have stated as much as 90% of all tree issues are a result from problems underground. This is why I’ve chosen to focus my research on alternatives for improving often poor soil conditions in urban environments for a happy harmony between tree and microbes."

"Technical support for our arborists is also a large part of the role as a researcher. The arborists who manage our clients’ trees advise them on the most up to date and efficient methods for keeping their trees in good health. The most exciting role is receiving diagnostic samples at the lab, and using techniques such as microscopy, chlorophyll fluorescence analysis, and other lab tests to investigate and report back the cause of the issues affecting the tree. This is what I prefer doing because it allows me to become a detective and research further into the wonderful interactions between trees, their environment, and pathogens."

"I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to travel internationally with work, venturing to places like the USA, the Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, and France. I started working in this job after studying horticulture and once I’d spent some time as a summer student in the industry I never looked back! I love my job and this is a great industry to be part of, especially with a greater appreciation of the environment in recent times."

"Trees are so incredibly important to our existence, from the paper we write on to the furniture we shop for, from the food we eat to the air we breathe. I am so proud to be working to protect and preserve these amazing organisms. It’s so important to be content in the work that you do, and I’ve found arboriculture a highly rewarding industry to be working in."