Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

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12 Faces of ARB: Part 3

Author:  Arboricultural Association
Last Updated:  11/04/2019

Part 3

With our ‘12 Faces of Arb’ feature, we’ll be taking a look at 12 inspirational women who’ve chosen to make their living in this sometimes tough but always exciting industry.

Find out more about Women in Arboriculture

12 Faces of Arboriculture

12 Faces of Arb

Tree Officer

Colleen O'Sullivan

Colleen O’Sullivan

Tree Officer, London Borough of Camden

I’ve been working as a tree officer in London for about seven years now, but I have spent my whole working career in and around trees. Starting in 1999 I worked in garden centres after school and on breaks from university. After earning a degree in Humanities I remained working in horticulture, eventually moving to Oregon, where I spent 5 years working in landscape maintenance. Having earned a few horticultural qualifications there, I was always envious of colleagues who had a background and education with trees. Forward to 2009 when I began my own arboricultural focused educational journey when I became an ISA certified arborist and enrolled in an urban forestry class. In 2010 I made the jump from Oregon to Preston, UK to earn an MSc Urban Forestry and Arboriculture at Myerscough College. I have gone on since to become an ISA certified municipal specialist, ISA TRAQ qualified and earn a graduate certificate in Agroforestry.

In 2011 I was lucky enough to get a job at London Borough of Camden as a Tree Officer, which had a reputation for being at the forefront of good practice in urban forest management thanks to a talented tree and parks team. Growing up, I had no idea that such a job existed as a possibility. My work varies dramatically and that’s what I like the most about it. Some days I’m commenting on new national tree policies and others I am responding to a fallen limb on the highway. From Spring to Autumn I carry out tree inspections on council owned trees across the borough. In the winter, I’m more office bound with database clean-ups or website updates to do, which end up providing more in-depth data on the borough’s trees to the general public on the Council’s website.

In addition to my main tree officer role, I also sit on the London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) executive committee, a position I have held for the last 4½ years. It has given me the chance to get involved in so much more at a city level and national level than I ever thought I would. The LTOA has been one of the best things about becoming a tree officer. Not only do I get to regularly work on working parties with some of the most dedicated, thoughtful and interesting people, I also go to seminars and have field trips with other tree officers and tree professionals. I have had the opportunity so far to travel to Italy, Spain and several places across Britain as part of the association. It has given me a wide appreciation of the breadth and depth arboriculture entails. Recently the LTOA agreed for me to become the tree officer representative on the Arboricultural Association’s Women in Arboriculture working party. This has further introduced me to a whole new group of people who work in varied roles across the field.

I would encourage anyone who has an interest in plants, trees or the environment to look at arboriculture as a career option, particularly in urban areas. The interface between nature and man-made is at its most critical in urban areas and with it provides an opportunity for arboricultural professionals to have a big impact on city environments present and future. Tree officers are at the forefront of this.