You could plant a tree, hug a tree, or even climb a tree. But whose job is it to take care of trees? That’s the work of an arborist! Alex Julius is one of those tree experts. She works for a company called Davey Tree based in Kent, Ohio. News-O-Matic (NOM) asked Julius (AJ) all about her high-climbing job. Don’t leaf without reading her answers!
NOM: How would you describe your job?
AJ: My job is the adult version of what kids already love to do — climbing trees. It's like we're big kids. Who doesn't have a tree that they love to get into? But now you can make money. You're climbing trees all the time. Some of it can be scary. And some of it is nice and fun. It's a new adventure every day.
NOM: What is your job like on a day-to-day basis?
AJ: I'm on the training side. I make training material for arborists so they come home safely. For regular arborists, their day-to-day can look a lot different. You could be a utility arborist — clearing trees around power lines.
Arborist can also mean someone who's going into your backyard and trimming the tree. They remove anything dead or broken that could pose a risk for you and your home. So they're climbing the tree — or they're in a bucket truck or crane. We've got a lot of fancy tools.
NOM: What are some ways arborists stay safe?
AJ: Safety is a big part of what we do. We provide people with protective equipment. So they've got their helmets and their safety glasses. But we're responsible for our own safety as well. The most important thing is educating ourselves. The more we know about trees and how they fail, the safer we can be.
NOM: How do you know if a tree is sick? How do you treat it?
AJ: This relates to what we call the forest. Trees that are in a forest do their own thing. And they're just fine, right? Because humans aren't there. But now, we're bringing trees into the urban environment. This creates new problems. You may wind up with construction around trees. And there are machines cutting up roots.
So a lot of the problems come from us. Luckily, we're able to the issue, similar to doctors. Arborists look at what the symptoms are. Are there fewer leaves or dead branches? Or is the whole tree shifting?
We figure out what's caused the stress in the tree. We might be able to fix the issue. But oftentimes, we've done damage. If people have cut into the root system, we can't put those roots back.
NOM: What’s the best part of your job?
AJ: The trees — because they’re all so unique. But also the people. They’re excitable people who are outdoorsy and like change. Some people like waking up and knowing exactly how their day is going to play out. Tree work doesn’t have that. Even if you know the job, the weather could change.
NOM: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
AJ: We’re still trying to educate people about proper tree care. There can be poor practices. Clients can ask for something that is not good for the tree. But a lot of companies will do those bad practices.
NOM: Why did you decide to be an arborist?
AJ: I decided to be an arborist because I was the kid who climbed trees. And I was into rock climbing in college. I had never heard of an arborist. But someone told me, “Hey, did you know you could make this into a career?” I realized this is definitely where I want to be.
NOM: How would someone go about becoming an arborist?
AJ: There isn't a set career path. A lot of it comes down to personality. Are you comfortable being outside and working hard? You could go to college and study something plant-related. But I think most people find that first job. It’s important to find a company that will train you in proper tree care.
NOM: Why is your job important for the planet?
AJ: Trees that grow to offer so many benefits. They create more habitat for wildlife. They absorb carbon dioxide from the environment. There’s shade, so we're lowering the temperature. But if we don't take care of trees, then all of those problems exist. So it's got a great deal of impact. And it's not all for the trees — it's for us too.
NOM: Is there anything else you would like to share with kids?
AJ: Green jobs are so important. We need people who are excited for the outdoors, like getting their hands dirty, like the tough work. And if heights aren't your thing, there's still a lot you can do. You could be planting trees, or you could be the person in the lab. There's so much that you can find in tree care.
But the climbing is a lot of fun. So if you're looking for an excuse to stay a kid and get in a tree — there are ways to do it.
Updated April 20, 2022, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Ashley Morgan