For Anna Starker May, forestry is not just a career or even just a passion; forestry is in her blood. She is a part of a legacy stretching back four generations, and even as a part of this heritage, she is an individual making a huge difference in forestry education and outreach, research, and sustainability.
Anna’s great-grandfather, T.J. Starker, was a member of the first OSC Forestry graduating class of 1910 and the founder of the influential company, Starker Forests. Anna and her grandfather (Bruce Starker, 1940), father (Bond Starker, 1969), uncle (Barte Starker, 1972), and brother (Jim Starker, 2004) all followed in his footsteps as OSU Forestry graduates. Anna’s husband, Adam May, is also an OSU forester (class of 2008). Anna said, “There was a bit of a precedent for me. I considered branching out to another school and possibly another major, but nothing outside of forestry felt right.”
Anna worked at the Starker Forests office from the age of ten through her high school years. When it came time to choose a college and major, her family didn’t push her but Anna still felt pressured to go into forestry at OSU because she wanted to give back to the forests that had given her family so much. “It’s like the pay it forward idea,” she said. “The generations before me did so much for me and now I want to do something for the next generations.” So, the only college application Anna sent was to OSU to study forest management.
After graduation in 2005, Anna did a six-month internship with Roseburg Forest Products. Working for someone else gave Anna a new perspective on her career. “It made me realize how lucky I am to have my own land to work on,” she said, “and I wanted to get back to it.”
In January 2006, Anna started working fulltime for Starker Forests doing many different jobs. She contributes to the multiple research projects that happen on Starker land every day by helping to set up, measure plots, enter data, and do basic analysis. She helps the less computer savvy foresters with computer work and also manages the company’s digital archives. Last winter, Anna worked on tree planting inspection and she now helps to coordinate the auctioning of specialty trees, such as maple, dogwood, chinquapin, and spruce.
Even with this busy schedule, some of the most important work Anna does involves the education of children. Each year, over 2000 kids visit Starker Forests to learn basic forest ecology and tree identification from foresters such as Anna, who enjoys seeing the kids get excited and eager to learn about the forest. She said this education is important so that the future stewards of the forests will be able to make informed decisions about forest policy. “It is really rare to find a career where you can so directly affect your children’s future- either positively or negatively,” Anna said. “Forestry is that kind of career.”
Anna may owe a lot to her ancestors that taught her about forestry and to the forests that are a part of her heritage, but through her education of future generations and her careful management of the forest and its resources, Anna is certainly “paying it forward” to future generations.
Bio of Anna Starker May written by Carrie Breckel, Editorial Assistant, Forestry Communications Group, College of Forestry