Nina Dowling Payne ’79 Forestry Management
As the daughter of a hunter and fisherman, I grew up the woods of south Georgia. My first ‘job’ was actually as my dad’s bird dog in the dove fields until my younger brother was old enough to fetch birds for him! When I was in high school, I worked for St. Joe Paper Company and did everything from cruising and marking timber to typing and answering the phone. I decided to major in forestry because it combined mathematics, biology and the opportunity to work outdoors.
My work life has taken me all over the Southeast with several industrial timberland companies and private forestry consulting firms. I have worked in reforestation, road construction, prescribed burning, seed orchard management, procurement, logging equipment engineering, and tree improvement, as well as providing consulting services to nonindustrial private timberland owners in Georgia and Florida. In my current position at the SFWS at Auburn, I plan, perform, and disseminate results of applied research for the member companies and state agencies comprising the Southern Forest Nursery Management Cooperative.
I am a Registered Forester in Georgia, and am a member of the Association of Consulting Foresters, Society of American Foresters, Georgia Forestry Association, Alabama Forestry Association, and Forest Landowners Association. My certification includes as an American Tree Farm Inspector and Project Learning Tree Facilitator. During Auburn’s Celebration of the Centennial Celebration of the Admission of Women, I was named a Distinguished Alumnae in 1992. I am also part owner of a family-owned quail plantation in Georgia and assist with its management.
Alumna Spotlight with Nina
What do you contribute to your success as a woman in forestry?
The contribution of my parents by their lack of discouragement (this was in the 1970’s!) in my choice of career field made all the difference, because I was never told by those most important to me that I should not go into forestry. In addition, I believe I inherited communication skills from them to be able to speak with and engage anyone in the forestry field – contractors, foresters, landowners, and others – which is an invaluable tool in professional life.
What area of your field/industry do you see the most growth potential for women?
The field of consulting forestry has tremendous opportunities for women foresters, as there are very few in the Southeast. Because family-owned timberland is often inherited by widows and/or daughters, the perspectives of and communication tools offered by women foresters can fill a role in maintaining the integrity of timberland management for the family.
In what ways/means do you feel the school could best support its female graduates and students?
For those female forestry students who did not grow up ‘in the woods’, the exposure of working in the woods is invaluable because it is usually long, hot, dirty, hard work that cannot be adequately described in the classroom. Learning and practicing skills to communicate and deal with all types of people would be helpful. In addition, broaching the subject of the probability that most female students will have families and responsibilities that go with them, and discussing ways to blend work and home life in a male-dominated field is important.
What advice would you give a new female graduate?
I would give the same advice to both male and female graduates – save your money and buy timberland! Managing timberland that you own is the best way to learn the satisfaction that comes from implementing a successful forest management plan as well as how to deal with problems you encounter as the owner. Also, be adaptable in your work-life balance because your life is probably not going to turn out as you have it planned now.