Looking for advice on becoming an arborist

GoldenLarch

New Member
Location
Kamloops
Three years ago I decided to let my customer service career behind (yay!) and completed a one year certificate in horticulture. I fell in love with working with trees. The schools resident arborist took me climbing one day, and I did one week's work experience with a tree service company, where I did groundwork while watching the climbers with envy.

I've done a fair amount of pruning and landscape related work since then, and I can't stop thinking about pursuing a career as an arborist. However, I would be very intimidated entering this industry as a 28 year old woman. I am in good shape, but would my body be able to hold up to the physical demands I know come with the job, and for how long? I know there are women arborists who are older than me, and I would love to hear from them, and anyone else who has any wisdom or advice.

I have also considered related career paths such as pursuing more education in tree health or forestry, but the allure of climbing is so strong for me.

Thank you for any thoughts!
 

RyanCafferky

Well-Known Member
Welcome to the Buzz-

One of the beautiful things about the tree business is the diversity of what we can do in our field. As our bodies slowly age or at times we are injured (as happens with all athletes) we can develop our strengths in other realms of our field. I have been fortunate to have relatively few injuries over the course of my career. What I have done though to help take care of my body and lengthen my climbing career is to try and learn to use tools and techniques that are easier on my body and also do regular body work. I have a massage therapist who I see quite regularly (especially if I am injured). When she is booked or when certain issues crop up I also will go to a chiropractor or my acupuncturist. We don’t run our cars without regular maintenance. Why should our bodies be any different?

Also, as I have gotten older, I don’t climb full time. I do safety audits of tree crews, training, and disaster response work in a managerial role. My experience developed when my tolerance for climbing full full time was at it’s peak is helping as I have diversified my work life. We have to accept and embrace change. Expecting our bodies (and brains) to want to do the same thing forever is unrealistic.

Hope some of that helps as you dive into the wonderful world or arboriculture.
 

evo

Well-Known Member
Location
My Island, WA
What state/city are you in? There are some great folks here, I’m sure many would have you out on the job for you to check it out a bit. I started climbing when I was about 28.
The unfortunately few women I’ve seen climb, are amazing. Overall as a generality they are not as fast or strong as their male counterparts. But graceful, meticulous, agile, and well organized.
 

GoldenLarch

New Member
Location
Kamloops
Wow, thank you for all the positive replies already!

@Njdelaney I rock climb, and have only started to research how to rec tree climb safely - I realise there are many differences, but hopefully I'll be able to transfer some skills and equipment. And thank you!

@evo I'm located in British Columbia in Canada. Dont know if there are many people from up here on this forum, hmm. But it's a great idea to reach out to some local arborists and see if I might be able to get out there and make sure it's right for me. Thank you!
 

evo

Well-Known Member
Location
My Island, WA
Wow, thank you for all the positive replies already!

@Njdelaney I rock climb, and have only started to research how to rec tree climb safely - I realise there are many differences, but hopefully I'll be able to transfer some skills and equipment. And thank you!

@evo I'm located in British Columbia in Canada. Dont know if there are many people from up here on this forum, hmm. But it's a great idea to reach out to some local arborists and see if I might be able to get out there and make sure it's right for me. Thank you!
I know some folks in Van, and I think I know a few in Victoria. PM me and I will see if I can connect you to some good peeps
 

GrumpyTree

New Member
Location
Northbridge
Three years ago I decided to let my customer service career behind (yay!) and completed a one year certificate in horticulture. I fell in love with working with trees. The schools resident arborist took me climbing one day, and I did one week's work experience with a tree service company, where I did groundwork while watching the climbers with envy.

I've done a fair amount of pruning and landscape related work since then, and I can't stop thinking about pursuing a career as an arborist. However, I would be very intimidated entering this industry as a 28 year old woman. I am in good shape, but would my body be able to hold up to the physical demands I know come with the job, and for how long? I know there are women arborists who are older than me, and I would love to hear from them, and anyone else who has any wisdom or advice.

I have also considered related career paths such as pursuing more education in tree health or forestry, but the allure of climbing is so strong for me.

Thank you for any thoughts!
Like @oldoakman said, get ahold of Melissa from shelter. Honestly anyone there has a huge amount of knowledge on the industry. Becoming certified can open you up to more opportunitys than just climbing which will keep you in the industry much longer if you look at it from that aspect.
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
Hi Golden Larch

Welcome to Treebuzz. Your enthusiasm is wonderful

Do you have a copy of The Tree Climber's Companion? It's worth getting.

Do some research to find arborist workshops and competitions. The cost and time will be repaid instantly.

Spend some time in the Archives here. Over the years so many people have been generous while sharing knowledge and ideas.

What you're learning in rock climbing will help with tree climbing and vis versa.
 

BoomBitch222

Active Member
Location
Roseville
Three years ago I decided to let my customer service career behind (yay!) and completed a one year certificate in horticulture. I fell in love with working with trees. The schools resident arborist took me climbing one day, and I did one week's work experience with a tree service company, where I did groundwork while watching the climbers with envy.

I've done a fair amount of pruning and landscape related work since then, and I can't stop thinking about pursuing a career as an arborist. However, I would be very intimidated entering this industry as a 28 year old woman. I am in good shape, but would my body be able to hold up to the physical demands I know come with the job, and for how long? I know there are women arborists who are older than me, and I would love to hear from them, and anyone else who has any wisdom or advice.

I have also considered related career paths such as pursuing more education in tree health or forestry, but the allure of climbing is so strong for me.

Thank you for any thoughts!
I was concerned about keeping up with the guys labor wise as well and Im not weak or lazy. A good company has the equipment to pretty make heavy lifting not an issue and if you show effort and dedication the guys will be more than happy to help if you do need a hand.

The rest is just confidence and every good day will build it. Try it out and if for any reason its not your thing, you can change paths, careers can always be changed. Rock on gurl
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator
At any given week there is usually one thread relating to employees. Various aspects of hiring, training, production etc

Without rereading I’m going to go with my memory and see if I get corrected.

There is never any issues with how big a log someone can haul or how quickly branches are shuffled around. If weight is an issue a production decision is made to cut. The ability to manage work glow is more desirable than log size. Doing aN overall good job is important That’s what makes a good employee
 

KristinL

Member
Location
Tahlequah
Hello and welcome. Your body will build up strength as you go and it's not really about how much you can pick up but how steady can you work. A steady pace can out work many heavy lifters that tire out early. As Tom mentioned the tree climbers companion is a great resource for beginners. Sounds like there's some solid leads for local climbers to learn with also. Good luck on your journey.
 

Lampyrid

Member
Location
Gainesville
I share many of your concerns. I'm 32 and have been doing recreational tree climbing on and off for about 3 years now. In August I quit my desk job and started working with the love of my life who is a self employed arborist. Some days I nail it, others I just manage to keep up, and a few days I wonder if I am kidding myself. My biggest worry is that I do not contribute enough to the company to justify the cost of employing me. My dude keeps reassuring me that I am worth it, but I don't know if he is just saying that. On the bright side there are areas where I have surpassed the guys. I found out splicing rope is similar to braiding hair or knitting so in less than a month I became the company go to for splicing. I'm an entomologist, so most of the insect and plant health stuff I have at least a basic understanding of. There have been a few moments were I identified a pest insect down to species while on site. Pneumatic root excavation was fun, but messy. I like feeding the chipper. It's probably the most dangerous piece of equipment, but if you are good about following safety protocol than its just like operating a big paper shredder. I have used a safeblock ultra sling, a port-a-wrap and a GRCS winch to lower limbs much heavier than myself without issue. The GRCS winch is too heavy for me to lift, so someone else needs to help me install it around the tree, but once its there Iv got it. I used a chainsaw on the ground once and didn't like it. I prefer hand saws. I'm beginning to like the pole chainsaw because that business end is so far form the trigger that it would be nearly impossible to cut myself with it. I had difficulty pulling the bigshot back far enough to launch my throw line, so I built my own pvc throw line launcher so that I can use a foot powered bicycle pump and save my are muscles for when I'm in the tree. So far the moments where the strength needed for the job is more than what I can provide have been few and far between. Most of that can be avoided by selecting equipment that works for you.
Best of luck with your new career. Keep us posted.
 
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evo

Well-Known Member
Location
My Island, WA
I share many of your concerns. I'm 32 and have been doing recreational tree climbing on and off for about 3 years now. In August I quit my desk job and started working with the love of my life who is a self employed arborist. Some days I nail it, others I just manage to keep up, and a few days I wonder if I am kidding myself. My biggest worry is that I do not contribute enough to the company to justify the cost of employing me. My dude keeps reassuring me that I am worth it, but I don't know if he is just saying that. On the bright side there are areas where I have surpassed the guys. I found out splicing rope is similar to braiding hair or knitting so in less than a month I became the company go to for splicing. I'm an entomologist, so most of the insect and plant health stuff I have at least a basic understanding of. There have been a few moments were I identified a pest insect down to species while on site. Pneumatic root excavation was fun, but messy. I like feeding the chipper. It's probably the most dangerous piece of equipment, but if you are good about following safety protocol than its just like operating a big paper shredder. I have used a safeblock ultra sling, a port-a-wrap and a GRCS wench to lower limbs much heavier than myself without issue. The GRCS wench is too heavy for me to lift, so someone else needs to help me install it around the tree, but once its there Iv got it. I used a chainsaw on the ground once and didn't like it. I prefer hand saws. I'm beginning to like the pole chainsaw because that business end is so far form the trigger that it would be nearly impossible to cut myself with it. I had difficulty pulling the bigshot back far enough to launch my throw line, so I built my own pvc throw line launcher so that I can use a foot powered bicycle pump and save my are muscles for when I'm in the tree. So far the moments where the strength needed for the job is more than what I can provide have been few and far between. Most of that can be avoided by selecting equipment that works for you.
Best of luck with your new career. Keep us posted.
Sounds like you are rocking it.. Men are brutes to our own detriment, our bodies pay for it later if we don't learn to ration it. There are many tricks to do things better, maybe slower, but slow can be efficient as the days burn to weeks, the weeks burn to years and so on. I've thrown my back out rolling a log out of a crater by hand, with a peavey laying 10' away. The issue is while I'm more than strong enough to do it a few times, I couldn't do it for a few days in a row (lots of removals that week).

As for setting up the GRCS solo, It's a pain in the ass and barely possible for most. A trick is to have the rigging line and block installed first. Assemble the GRCS on the ground at the base of the tree, next take the working end of the rigging line and tie it off at the base of a tree. Next load the control end of the line into the GRCS as if you were winching something, rock the handle back and forth until you can freely spin it, winching the GRCS up the line. This will allow you to have it held in place as you position it around the tree. The only part that is hard solo using this (sometimes clumsy) method is getting the strap tightened enough. There are countless little tricks like this, that many may never know about. I picked this one up by a YouTube video comparing the GRCS to some other winch.

It's about the details, I've been to quite a few comps but never had any desire to compete. I pick up way more by watching and looking for details. Taking the tail of a foot ascender strap and tucking it into the boot laces (DUH!), wrapping the bungee of a knee ascender above your knee and clipping it back to itself to stow it in place. I bought a 261C for a woman who worked for me for a while, she had a hard time starting any of the other rear handle saws on the ground. The trick is to eat, sleep, and learn all these details. Every tree is a puzzle, there were many times when as a employee for a veteran climber of 40+ years he would lay out the work plan, which certainly would work, but a fresh set of eyes found a simpler way to solve the puzzle.
 

Lampyrid

Member
Location
Gainesville
Sounds like you are rocking it.. Men are brutes to our own detriment, our bodies pay for it later if we don't learn to ration it. There are many tricks to do things better, maybe slower, but slow can be efficient as the days burn to weeks, the weeks burn to years and so on. I've thrown my back out rolling a log out of a crater by hand, with a peavey laying 10' away. The issue is while I'm more than strong enough to do it a few times, I couldn't do it for a few days in a row (lots of removals that week).

As for setting up the GRCS solo, It's a pain in the ass and barely possible for most. A trick is to have the rigging line and block installed first. Assemble the GRCS on the ground at the base of the tree, next take the working end of the rigging line and tie it off at the base of a tree. Next load the control end of the line into the GRCS as if you were winching something, rock the handle back and forth until you can freely spin it, winching the GRCS up the line. This will allow you to have it held in place as you position it around the tree. The only part that is hard solo using this (sometimes clumsy) method is getting the strap tightened enough. There are countless little tricks like this, that many may never know about. I picked this one up by a YouTube video comparing the GRCS to some other winch.

It's about the details, I've been to quite a few comps but never had any desire to compete. I pick up way more by watching and looking for details. Taking the tail of a foot ascender strap and tucking it into the boot laces (DUH!), wrapping the bungee of a knee ascender above your knee and clipping it back to itself to stow it in place. I bought a 261C for a woman who worked for me for a while, she had a hard time starting any of the other rear handle saws on the ground. The trick is to eat, sleep, and learn all these details. Every tree is a puzzle, there were many times when as a employee for a veteran climber of 40+ years he would lay out the work plan, which certainly would work, but a fresh set of eyes found a simpler way to solve the puzzle.
I like your Idea of using the winch to hoist its self up the tree into position. I still need help getting it out of the vehicle and to the tree. Almost all of the climbing equipment has been taken in to the smallest of the size adjustments, so I am becoming a pro at stuff like what to do with the tail end of the foot ascender strap. Starting the chainsaws has not been the problem for me. My issue with them is fear of the potential amputation device. Who's idea was it to put the the chain with all the teeth spinning a bazillion RPMs so close to the handle? I see and apricate the practical use of chainsaws, but I also feel like they are a fitting trophy for the Darwin Awards.
 
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Njdelaney

Well-Known Member
Location
Detroit
I hate to be the one to state the obvious but being afraid of chainsaws doesn't mean that they are a foolish invention. Of all the things you've mentioned as your shortcomings as YOU see them, being afraid of chainsaws is the only one I would say is a real obstacle to your usefulness. Maybe you should practice with a small electric to start with until you get comfortable and then move up. Even with all your other skills and knowledge, there will almost surely come a day that you are the only one available and what needs to be done requires a saw. Get familiar with how the chain brake works, how to orient your hands so that it is very very unlikely you'll ever be injured by kickback, wear PPE, etc. The safest mindset is to be aware of potential danger but not distracted by it and that only comes with intentional practice. I would also bet that nearly every person on this forum has been injured more times by a handsaw than a chainsaw!
 

Lampyrid

Member
Location
Gainesville
I hate to be the one to state the obvious but being afraid of chainsaws doesn't mean that they are a foolish invention. Of all the things you've mentioned as your shortcomings as YOU see them, being afraid of chainsaws is the only one I would say is a real obstacle to your usefulness. Maybe you should practice with a small electric to start with until you get comfortable and then move up. Even with all your other skills and knowledge, there will almost surely come a day that you are the only one available and what needs to be done requires a saw. Get familiar with how the chain brake works, how to orient your hands so that it is very very unlikely you'll ever be injured by kickback, wear PPE, etc. The safest mindset is to be aware of potential danger but not distracted by it and that only comes with intentional practice. I would also bet that nearly every person on this forum has been injured more times by a handsaw than a chainsaw!
Obvious or not don't hate yourself Njdelaney. I recognize chainsaws as an indispensable tool, and I respect those who are able to use them safely. I understand that by becoming chainsaw competent I could accomplish that much more. At this point in time and for someone in my circumstance the benefits of using a chainsaw do not outweigh the risks.
 

Tree frog

New Member
Location
Grand Rapids
Three years ago I decided to let my customer service career behind (yay!) and completed a one year certificate in horticulture. I fell in love with working with trees. The schools resident arborist took me climbing one day, and I did one week's work experience with a tree service company, where I did groundwork while watching the climbers with envy.

I've done a fair amount of pruning and landscape related work since then, and I can't stop thinking about pursuing a career as an arborist. However, I would be very intimidated entering this industry as a 28 year old woman. I am in good shape, but would my body be able to hold up to the physical demands I know come with the job, and for how long? I know there are women arborists who are older than me, and I would love to hear from them, and anyone else who has any wisdom or advice.

I have also considered related career paths such as pursuing more education in tree health or forestry, but the allure of climbing is so strong for me.

Thank you for any thoughts!
I say go for it! I was 45 years old when I started my career as a groundsperson/treeclimber. I have now been in the industry for just over 3 years. I'll be 49 in January and I love every minute of it! Is it hard work, hell yeah, but I wouldn't change it for the best day behind a desk or working indoors. I wish I could go back in time when I was your age to pursue my arborist certification back then. I didn't know this job even existed. As far as the physically demanding part; I'm a bit of a fitness and nutrition nut. I do yoga and cross training regularly and a hug advocate for eating clean. My food is my fuel, eat trash feel like trash; eat clean to be a lean mean climbing machine! Hope this helps!
 

KristinL

Member
Location
Tahlequah
I share many of your concerns. I'm 32 and have been doing recreational tree climbing on and off for about 3 years now. In August I quit my desk job and started working with the love of my life who is a self employed arborist. Some days I nail it, others I just manage to keep up, and a few days I wonder if I am kidding myself. My biggest worry is that I do not contribute enough to the company to justify the cost of employing me. My dude keeps reassuring me that I am worth it, but I don't know if he is just saying that. On the bright side there are areas where I have surpassed the guys. I found out splicing rope is similar to braiding hair or knitting so in less than a month I became the company go to for splicing. I'm an entomologist, so most of the insect and plant health stuff I have at least a basic understanding of. There have been a few moments were I identified a pest insect down to species while on site. Pneumatic root excavation was fun, but messy. I like feeding the chipper. It's probably the most dangerous piece of equipment, but if you are good about following safety protocol than its just like operating a big paper shredder. I have used a safeblock ultra sling, a port-a-wrap and a GRCS winch to lower limbs much heavier than myself without issue. The GRCS winch is too heavy for me to lift, so someone else needs to help me install it around the tree, but once its there Iv got it. I used a chainsaw on the ground once and didn't like it. I prefer hand saws. I'm beginning to like the pole chainsaw because that business end is so far form the trigger that it would be nearly impossible to cut myself with it. I had difficulty pulling the bigshot back far enough to launch my throw line, so I built my own pvc throw line launcher so that I can use a foot powered bicycle pump and save my are muscles for when I'm in the tree. So far the moments where the strength needed for the job is more than what I can provide have been few and far between. Most of that can be avoided by selecting equipment that works for you.
Best of luck with your new career. Keep us posted.
When using a chainsaw be aware of the top tip of the bar at all times as that is commonly the area that causes kickback. Wearing all your ppe and keeping two hands on the saw greatly reduced your risk of injury. Start with a small saw that you can comfortably wield. One small step at a time and you'll overcome that fear. I would say they don't hurt as much as you would think but my cut was small
 

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