Alex Woods is carving a name for himself as a provincial climate change expert and innovator.
Recently, he was awarded the Association of BC Forest Professionals Climate Change Innovator award.
Woods is the first recipient of the award, which was created by the ABCFP to raised awareness of the threat climate change is having on forests and to recognize those who make a difference.
“It’s an award that shows the association is taking climate change very seriously, and I think it’s one of the ways they thought they could highlight the importance of it to the general public.”
Woods travelled to Kelowna for the awards ceremony, where he was seated with some of the Province’s biggest names in forestry and climate change.
“It was pretty cool to get to travel down there and meet a lot of those people,” Woods said.
The journey began in 2005 when Woods authored a paper on Dothistroma Needle Blight, a fungus that attacks the foliage of the lodgepole pine.
Over the years, Woods began to notice that blight was getting worse, and was more noticeable during years of high temperatures and wet weather.
He was then able to correlate increases in needle blight infestations to climate change.
“I think we made a compelling case that the current epidemic coincided with current warm weather events and we saw that the pattern was out of step with normal drivers.”
Since then, Woods has continued to work on diseases affecting forests, publishing other papers and travelling to international conferences to share his research.
He also works in close conjunction with forestry companies to manage forestry stands, promoting stainability.
When forestry companies notice something awry, they call Woods.
Ultimately, he would like to make sure B.C.’s forests are managed in a way that maximizes their ability to both cope with and fight against global warming.
And with the pine beetle infestation and global warming, he’s been busy.
“If we can figure out how forests are behaving, we can figure out what different species to plant and how many we plant to compensate for how many we lose to disease.”
“But it’s going well. We are making progress, but it takes a lot of work.”
Though he is based out of Smithers, Woods works across the province, conducting research, monitoring young forests and teaching about the effects of climate change. His passion for trees and forests was instilled in his youth, by his father.
“He would always try to teach us about nature, getting us to identify trees and firewood to we would know what we were looking at.
“So it’s in my blood I guess.”
Woods’ isn’t a born and raised Smithereen. He grew up in Salmon Arm, but moved to Smithers after he finished his Masters of Forests Pathology at the University of Alberta in 1994.
In the early 1990s, he visited his future wife Jane, who was stationed in Smithers on a summer co-op, and fell in love with it.
“I saw how beautiful Smithers was and thought it would be a great place to live and raise a family”
Upon graduation, Woods’ dream job of a forest pathologist came up for hire with the Ministry of Forests in 1994. He applied, got the job and hasn’t left since.
Woods’ contributions aren’t limited to forestry though.
While raising his two children, he’s become a coach for the Cross Country Ski Club, working with young athletes four times a week in the winter and travelling with them to competitions.
His daughter Kate is currently attending cross country nationals in New Brunswick, while his son Hamish, who is two years younger, may get there soon.
In the summer, Woods keeps himself busy whitewater kayaking, while also teaching others, new to the sport.