“I think what’s really important for our industry is that its representative of the people that we serve ”
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.
Although she didn’t start her journey working in arboriculture, Meagan Hanna always knew she wanted to work in public service. She originally pursued a Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degree in Canadian political science and history, however, she said she had difficulty finding her space and a topic of interest. It wasn’t until she worked a summer job that she came across public horticulture and developing public green spaces.
“I really discovered how our urban trees are in need of care,” she said. “The communities I was working for didn’t have that many folks that were able to do that were comfortable in arboriculture. I saw that need, and I figured that would be a good fit for me because of the different passions that I have in public service, history, and municipal horticulture.”
After graduating from McGill University, Hanna began pursuing urban forestry, but she said she needed to compensate and get an education in the field. She then pursued a certificate in horticulture and green space management from the Université Laval in Quebec City while also working fulltime. She also sought out training with her local ISA chapter—the International Society of Arboriculture Quebec (SIAQ).
“I think the biggest challenge was deciding in my early 20’s that I wanted to move towards arboriculture and apply for a position that, on paper, I was in no way qualified to do,” she said. “That was a moment of humility for me and it made me realize there’s so much promise and potential into getting to know trees and how to care for them.”
Hanna began working in urban forestry in 2011 and became an ISA Certified Arborist® in 2012.
“It was really a hustle at that time, and it was a pace I got used to, so although I know longer study I do teach while working fulltime,” she said. “I’m still in that whirlwind of learning, gaining knowledge, sharing that knowledge, and calling that knowledge into question. It’s very demanding, but at the same time because I’m working in a field I’m very passionate about, I find it energizing.”
Today, Hanna is an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist® and Tree Risk Assessment Qualified. She works as the living collections supervisor for gardens and arboriculture at the Montreal Botanical Gardens for the city of Montreal and a part-time lecturer for the University of British Columbia.
Looking back on her career, Hanna said that her volunteer work with SIAQ is something she is very thankful to have experienced.
“My local chapter was a landing space for me when I knew I wanted to work with trees, but my confidence wasn’t there at the beginning of my career and there were these knowledge gaps,” she said. “Being able to volunteer for the chapter over time allowed me to help curate the courses and training I was looking for.”
While volunteering Hanna was not only able to fill those gaps, but she also translated the Certified Arborist Manual into French.
“Giving French speaking arborist the opportunity to learn more and hone their craft is something that I feel grateful to have participated in,” she said. “I think it’s important for everyone to be in the industry. I think what’s really important for our industry is that its representative of the people that we serve. Arborist work with the public, private clients, homeowners, and all types of community groups and to have just one group serving that public leads missing out on a lot of perspectives.”
She was also happy to be recruited by Cecil Konijnendijk to teach at the first Masters of Urban Forestry Leadership Program in Canada.
“I think I was able to overcome those challenges thanks to the people supporting me,” she said. “I’ve had some great mentorship at the time, but grit as well. It takes a lot of work and time and not everybody is able to or in the position to do that. I feel that I’ve been lucky to commit all that energy to something I very much wanted to do and something that speaks to me and it’s really thanks to that support from everybody that I’ve been able to engage with.”
Check out the other Women in Arboriculture profiles.