Michael Zsoldos, a May 9 Biology graduate, grew up fishing, hunting, camping and canoeing, so he felt at home on Stockton University’s Pinelands campus.
He starts a new journey this summer in the state’s forestlands with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) State Forest Service as a part-time forestry assistant.
“I have always been involved in the outdoors, which drove me toward a profession that would have me outdoors,” said Zsoldos.
In his new job, he will work with state and some private landowners conducting field work, processing and analyzing data and preparing management plans. He will also use geographic information systems (GIS) to process spatial data.
As an outdoorsman, Zsoldos connected with the study of forestry during Dendrology, the first course he took with Dr. George Zimmermann, professor of Environmental Studies, which focuses on the scientific study of trees.
“What drew me to forestry can be summed up with one word, or one name rather, Zim. Dr. Zimmerman is extremely passionate about what he does and he is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the field of forestry,” Zsoldos said.
Dendrology “opened up my eyes to a whole new world that I did not realize existed, even though I always spent time in the woods,” he explained.
“It also made me realize how bad of shape most of our forests are in. After Dendrology, I was hooked and I knew that I wanted to learn more and get as much knowledge about forestry as possible,” he added.
This past March, Stockton began implementing a 10-year forest management plan on the university campus with a prescribed burn off Delaware Avenue. Zsoldos was involved in mapping the forest prior to the burn using LiDAR laser scanning. “This is a very exciting time for Stockton,” said Zsoldos, in reference to the forest stewardship plan.
Although he officially graduated, Zsoldos enrolled in a summer course with Dr. Zimmerman, Forest Measurements, to gain additional hands-on experience with forest management. “This course is going to go hand-in-hand with the management plan and in the future it will be great for students to see how things have changed and there will be actual data to compare to,” he explained.
Future students “are going to be able to experience forestry work actually being done. They will be able to see it and touch it with their own hands. Seeing is believing, and a lot of students need to see things first hand to understand and believe in the work that Dr. Zimmerman is doing and this will give Stockton students that opportunity,” said Zsoldos.
Dr. Zimmermann’s classes were Zsoldos’ most challenging, and also the most rewarding. “He gives his students the tools for success, but he expects you to figure out when, where and how to use those tools, which is a lot like a real job.”
Zsoldos grew up playing in the woods, he studied in the Pinelands National Reserve and now he will work as an environmental steward to preserve New Jersey’s forests for future generations.