I’m addicted to learning, so I’m certain there will be more in my future
In honor of International Women’s Day, the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is sharing stories about women in the arboriculture profession throughout the month of March to honor their contributions to the industry.
Becoming an arborist was not Alex Julius’ first career choice. Instead she wanted to be a tiger veterinarian. It wasn’t until she was in her sophomore year of college when she got the idea.
“It took me one year of college to realize that being a tiger veterinarian was not a realistic goal for me,” Julius said. “Too much paperwork. Not enough tigers. I switched gears and changed majors to architecture. While registering for classes, I couldn’t get into an architecture studio course, so my advisor put me in landscape architecture and recommended I take a horticulture class to complement the studio.”
While she attended college, Julius participated in a work study program teaching rock climbing. One day, she was asked if she wanted to be the campus arborist’s assistant as another work study job.
“At that point, what that meant was keeping college students out of drop zones and gathering brush,” she said. “But with time, it evolved into climbing some of the smaller campus trees, and eventually some of the more mature trees that were in the original Frederick Law Olmstead design. The campus arborist, John Berryhill, was a huge support for me and taught me that climbing trees was an actual career choice.”
That same year, Julius attended the New England Chapter ISA Tree Climbing Competition (TCC) that was happening nearby her university.
“I had never experienced such a competitive group of people who cheer and support their own competition,” she said. “The network of amazing people sealed the deal for me.”
Julius earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture and Urbanism from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and a Master’s of Science in Arboriculture and Urban Forestry from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She also earned a graduate certificate in Instructional Design from the University of Wisconsin.
“I’m addicted to learning, so I’m certain there will be more in my future,” she said.
Julius is an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist®, and she holds the Tree Worker Climber Specialist®, the Municipal Specialist® and Tree Worker Aerial Lift® credentials and the Tree Risk Assessment Qualification. Julius also works as an employee development and safety training specialist for the Davey Tree Expert Company.
Julius’ career has been accompanied by many accomplishments. Recently she co-authored her first book with Sharon Lilly—Tree Climbers’ Guide, 4th edition.
“I’m proud to have written a book,” she said. “It takes discipline to sit down and write, especially when it’s beautiful outside. But I’ve seen what an impact Sharon’s books have had on the industry, including my own career. I wanted to be part of that legacy and also help others as they start in their climbing career. That’s what I told myself while I was sitting and writing.”
Julius said her goal for her career is to make an impact on the industry that would save lives. Although she is uncertain of what that impact will be this early in her career, she said she aspires to work on patents, write more and build safety programs.
At this point in her career, however, Julius said she is most proud of working on the ANSI Z133 safety standard.
“Even though I’m not on the committee, I have the distinct privilege of listening to the brain power that is in that room (now a virtual room), and learn from their shared expertise,” she said. “The task group work is very rewarding, and I know will help save lives.”
Additionally, Julius is very involved in the tree climbing community. She attended the Women’s Tree Climbing Workshop held at the Arnold Arboretum. As one of the instructors, Julius helped women find their own power and build confidence, not just in climbing, but in life as well she said.
Julius also competed in several International Tree Climbing Championships (ITCC). “Often in my career, when I’ve been one of few women climbing, I felt when I get in a tree I was representing a whole gender,” she said. “That’s a big burden and I’d often find myself opting out of climbing so as to not let down the women of the world or prove others right. Well, that’s not a way to go through life. Competing at ITCC has allowed me to forget about that pressure. There are tons of amazingly skilled women who compete at ITCC, and I can just relax and watch in awe of their abilities. They push me to do better and continue to inspire me. Also, as a competitive person, it has been humbling to get used to losing, which I’m totally fine with now. As many of the competitors know, for the most part, it’s not about winning anyway.”
However, it is not the jobs that made the difference in Julius’ career, but rather the people she’s encountered along the journey.
“When I initially wanted to be a tiger vet, I thought I was going to be spending lots of time with tigers,” she said. “Then in tree care, I thought I’d be able to spend most of my time with trees. As an introvert, both of these seemed appealing. The reality is it’s the people that make tree care amazing. So as much as I may have tried in the beginning of my career to find ways to work alone, the people are really what make arboriculture great. Get out there, meet new people, and be your unique self!”
To learn more about women making an impact in the arboriculture industry, visit the ISA website.
Check out the other Women in Arboriculture profiles.