"My keen interest is in natural resources. That's what brought me to the College of Forestry in the first place," explains Forestry Media Center Instructional Designer David Zahler. After earning a Forest Management degree from Oregon State in 1992, David worked in forest science before deciding to go on with his education. "I decided to go back to grad school because in forest science, I saw a disconnect between general citizenry and the changes in management and policy that were being implemented all the time because of research. I didn't feel like a lot of what we were accomplishing in research was getting to the people who needed to know about it."
David was accepted into the then-new education and extension master's program at OSU in 1993—the same year, incidentally, that the World Wide Web was introduced to society. David says, "That was the big news, everyone was trying to figure out how this new technology was going to affect how people got information, how people learned."
Now that education and communication is David's job, he is using various forms of media to bridge the gap between research and society. Along with Jeff Hino and recently hired Steve Cox David works to teach a wide range of research to a wide range of audiences. He says that ultimately, "There needs to be more access to information for people to understand more or make better decisions about natural resources and their management... For example, people in general don't know how diverse our forests are in Oregon. A lot of people think we're blanketed by a single type of forest and that management in one place might be exactly like it is in another place, or that understory species might be exactly the same, when in fact we have a very diverse forested landscape."
David's role at the Forestry Media Center, he says, is more based on the internet and computer multimedia technology, while Jeff Hino and Steve Cox do more of the videography. Some memorable projects have included a virtual tour of the College Forest and the Forest Learn Website, which is geared towards middle schoolers.
David's work is exciting because, he says, "I think we are at a time when there is potential for society to recognize societal influences on natural resources and how policy and people and industry can make a difference. I think now more than ever, I feel like our product can have messages, and those messages can be important."
Besides his work at OSU, David is president of the board of directors for the Corvallis Environmental Center, Director of the Oregon Legal Graywater Association, a state chairperson for the Oregon Society of American Foresters—and, he adds, "I did do the Peace Corps in between [getting my master's and working at the FMC]." Along with his wife April, he worked for two years in a Mayan village of 130 people in Guatemala on sustainable agriculture projects. "That was my break from technology for sure," he says.
A life-long Oregonian, David is an avid outdoor enthusiast in his spare time—"I have a strong sense of place in that way," he says. He enjoys mushroom-picking in the fall, skiing in the winter, and running, hiking, ultimate Frisbee, and mountaineering in the spring and summer. He and April, a Crescent Valley English teacher, consider themselves "urban homesteaders." They grow organic vegetables and raise chickens in the middle of Corvallis, with their two-year-old daughter Linnea. "It's all about moderating one's impact on common resources," says David, "and a sense of place helps me define that."
Bio of David Zahler written by Emily Thomas, Editorial Assistant, Forestry Communications Group, College of Forestry