I believe that arborists are supportive of one another and help each other reach their goals.
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.
For Dana Karcher, who serves as President-Elect on the ISA Board of Directors, her career in arboriculture began in the nonprofit world. It was through this work that Karcher fell in love with the tree care industry.
“I went to a lot of workshops, conferences, and events so that I could learn more about trees,” she said. “I knew that professionals were the leaders, the teachers, and the people who really understood trees and the benefits that they provide communities.”
It was her desire to become a professional that lead to Karcher taking her first steps to becoming an ISA Certified Arborist®, and she met instrumental people who helped and encouraged her along her journey.
“A few people were instrumental in that realization including Patrick Denney who was the arborist for the City of Bakersfield CA where I lived, and Rose Epperson [the executive director of the Western Chapter ISA] who is a constant encourager and cheerleader for me,” she said. “There were many others along the way as well. In general, I believe that arborists are supportive of one another and help each other reach their goals.”
In her current role as an area manager/project developer for the Davey Resource Group, Karcher works throughout the central U.S. to support communities, utilities, developers and other entities in managing their trees.
“I am lucky to work with a great team in an outstanding company,” she said. “I see my role as a connector of knowledge and solutions to people and the trees that they manage. My passion is to share how trees can create community.”
In addition to being an ISA Certified Arborist, Karcher also holds the ISA Certified Arborist Municipal Specialist® credential as well.
Throughout her career, Karcher has continually sought out leadership opportunities. Karcher helped create the Municipal Forestry Institute, and is now working on another advanced leadership program, the Green Communities Leadership Institute with colleagues from across the U.S.
Karcher also worked for the Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) in Nebraska, where she had the opportunity to go to an ADF tree planting in California in an area that had been devastated by fire.
“People that had lost their homes were volunteering to plant in the burn areas and telling their stories about evacuation and rebuilding, and they were thanking us for helping them,” she said. “I was stunned at how healing that day was for so many people. I learned that trees bring people together and give us common ground.”
With her many accomplishments Karcher said what is most notable from her career is the work she’s done that has led to change.
“This includes everything from planting trees with Girl Scouts in a park when I started my career, to developing the first Urban Forest Equity Plan for a city in the Northeast,” she said. “Both of those changes lead to better communities. Ultimately that is why I do this work along with thousands of fellow arborists throughout the world. Trees are good!”
However, her career has not been without its challenges. One challenge Karcher has encountered is one she shares with many other arboriculture professionals—helping the public understand what arborists do.
“To us, it’s simple,” she said. “Arborists are professionals, and professionals take care of trees. We still have the challenge to educate the public about the importance of proper tree care to maintain and grow the benefits of our arboricultural assets! That education seems to never end and it is really incumbent on all of us to be teachers about what we do.”
Additionally, Karcher said she ran into challenges early in her career when she worked in utility vegetation management. “There just were not that many women in the room, but we were never treated poorly or with disdain,” she said. “In fact, meeting some of those women helped to build a network for support within the utility arboriculture industry.”
Building a strong network is one of the things that Karcher has appreciated most about the industry. While at a Western Chapter ISA Work Days event held on Catalina Island, Timmy Womick, an “edu-tainer” with TreeCircus, provided campfire entertainment. It was during Womick’s show that he posed an interesting question to the audience.
“During that show, [Womick] always asks, ‘What do trees give us?’ Of course, there are so many answers to that question,” Karcher said. “One of the young audience members shouted out, ‘Friends!’ She is so correct. Because of trees, I am blessed to have many friends throughout the world who have changed my life and the lives of others. We are in a unique industry that is supportive and caring for both people and the earth. I could not be more proud to be associated with it.”
Check out the other Women in Arboriculture profiles.