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Fall 2007 - Grad Office

Destination Purdue > Fall 2007 - Grad Office

Destination Career is a series profiling recent Purdue Agriculture graduates.
For more alumni stories, visit our Destination Career archive.

This grad's 'office' has a really great view

By Janet Beagle

Dan Shaver came to Purdue to study engineering, but the lure of the forest was just too strong. "I always enjoyed Boy Scouts and loved camping and hunting around Indiana as a kid," Shaver said.

Stephanie Larkin sings

Photo provided by Dan Shaver

Dan Shaver, a 1994 Purdue Agriculture graduate and director of the Brown County (Ind.) Hills Project for The Nature Conservancy, measures a white oak with a Biltmore stick, which helps determine the number of boards that can be cut from a tree.

So after just one semester, Shaver decided to follow his passion and change his major to forestry and wildlife. He graduated in 1994 and now works for The Nature Conservancy, where he helps manage public and private forests. "I have a great job. I don't have one typical day. I have two typical days," Shaver said. His work as Brown County (Ind.) Hills Project director allows him to spend part of his time in an office and part of his time outside.

He said he loves having a job that allows him to get out of the office and into Indiana's forests. Besides the freedom of not being in an office all the time, he enjoys helping people appreciate the natural environment. Once out in the woods, Shaver teaches private landowners how their trees fit into the forest ecosystem.

Teri Bleuel, a landowner in Nashville, Ind., heard about The Nature Conservancy's Forest Bank program. She contacted Shaver and donated 30 acres that abuts the Yellowwood State Forest in southern Indiana. "It's a total feel-good feeling," Bleuel said of her decision to donate the land. She said she wanted to protect her land from over-harvesting and development, and met with Shaver to discuss her options. "Just by talking to him you can tell he chose to work for The Nature Conservancy because he believes in what he does," Bleuel said. She said it was easy to support an organization whose employees were passionate about their work.

Conservation group educates landowners, protects properties
By Janet Beagle

There are about 300,000 acres of forest in Indiana, and about half is privately owned. The Nature Conservancy teaches private landowners to conserve and manage their forests. Sometimes, The Nature Conservancy buys land and resells it to a state agency to become state forest. Landowners also can place their land in a forest bank.

Under this program, The Nature Conservancy owns and manages the trees, but the landowner still owns and uses the land. Owners may receive incoem from the lumber sales if the trees are harvested for timber. "This is a good balance of what can be done with the land," said Dan Shaver with the Nature Conservancy. Teri Bleuel, a landowner in Nashville, Ind., agreed. "It's somethign of substance I can do for the environment," she said. "I've given money in the past, but this is more personal."

Find out more:

Purdue GOinAG
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources
The Nature Conservancy
Indiana Forestry

Shaver's passion for Indiana's forests is evident even outside his work with The Nature Conservancy. He volunteers to remove invasive plants that can harm forest ecosystems. He's also chairman of the Indiana Society of American Foresters, which occasionally brings him back to address classes at Purdue. Shaver's passion also drives him to stay current. "The science behind managing natural resources is always evolving," he said.

Understanding the science behind forest management allows Shaver to properly manage a given forest. Sometimes, Shaver may recommend cutting grapevines or harvesting some trees. Other times he may "deaden" a tree, using a chainsaw to cut a ring around the trunk. The standing dead tree provides habitat for woodpeckers and allows more sunlight to reach neighboring trees.

The complexity of forest management makes having a vision for the forest essential. In his work for The Nature Conservancy, it is important to listen to landowners and understand their goals for the property, Shaver said. "There is a story behind their land and what they like to do on it," Shaver said. For example, Bleuel is a state-licensed rehabilitator for box turtles. She hopes her land will provide habitat for the forest-dwelling animals and keep them from getting killed on roads. "I enjoyed being out in the woods," Shaver said.

Shaver developed many of the skills he needed to work with public and private landowners during his first job with the State of Indiana. He conducted forest inventories on public land. He walked through forests identifying trees, noting the presence of invasive plants, and measuring trees with a Biltmore stick, a tool that measures the number of boards that can be cut from the tree. "It is also used to knock spider webs out of the way as you're walking through the woods," Shaver said.

Shaver said that many forestry students think of working in the West's large forests after they graduate. But two summers working with the Indiana Division of Forestry while a Purdue student changed his mind. "I wasn't excited about going West anymore. I liked what I saw here in Indiana," he said.

Shaver said one of his best memories from Purdue is a six-week intensive summer camp in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where he and 31 other forestry students learned to manage forests, identify key plants, manage wildlife and conduct forest inventories. He recalled sleeping in a cabin overlooking a lake, listening to loons and watching the northern lights.

And he still does. "Fourteen years down the road, I still don't understand everything about forestry in Indiana," Shaver said. "I'm still learning."