University of Maine forest resource students will have access to state-of-the-art technology thanks to the Maine Timberlands Charitable Trust (MTCT) which has provided a $200,000 gift to create and endow the Barbara Wheatland Geospatial Analysis Laboratory in Nutting Hall.
Ms. Wheatland, known affectionately as “Bee,” died at her home in Sargentville, Maine, in 2010. She established the MTCT, a private charitable foundation with a special focus on forestlands, timberlands and other natural resources in the State of Maine, as well as related education, research, and other activities concerning the environmentally compatible use and preservation of these resources.
Robert Wagner, director of the UMaine School of Forest Resources and Center for Research on Sustainable Forests (CRSF), said the generous gift from the MTCT for the Barbara Wheatland Geospatial Analysis Laboratory in Nutting Hall on the UMaine campus in Orono would greatly benefit the School’s nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate students as they pursue their education. “This wonderful endowment helps us ensure that our students are equipped with the latest skills and gives us the capability to perform leading research as we work on applied forest management problems,” he said. “Employers expect our graduates to have state-of-the-art knowledge and training relating to geospatial analysis of landscapes. This new laboratory will help us accomplish that.”
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) enable foresters to look at how complex environmental and management factors change and interact over large forest landscapes for long periods of time, allowing forest managers to optimize harvest operations and management plans to meet the rigorous demands of sustainable forestry.
“So much of what we do in modern forest management involves geospatial analysis,” Dr. Wagner said.
A member of the Pingree family which owns and manages multiple timberland properties and hardwood processing facilities in Maine, Ms. Wheatland spent her youth in Marblehead and Topsfield, Mass. She fell in love with the Maine woods at an early age and often hiked the mountain trails on Mount Desert Island, ultimately returning to live at her Maine farm in her later years, practicing “organic gardening” before the term became fashionable.
She was keenly interested in anything connected with Maine, including the development of ”green” certified forestry practices, boutique maple syrup production, and individual ownership of working forestlands. MTCT trustee Linda Dalby Kennedy said Ms. Wheatland’s foundation is committed to innovative approaches in the conservation and economic development of Maine’s natural resources so that residents of Maine may benefit from related educational grants and scholarships, expanded employment opportunities, and the simple enjoyment of nature that is ensured by responsible stewardship.
The MTCT’s generous gift, which supports both the renovation and outfitting of the current GIS lab as well as the endowment to secure its long-term viability in this rapidly changing discipline, comes at an opportune time, Dr. Wagner said, since Nutting Hall is undergoing renovations as part of a bond approved by voters several years ago.
In addition to its gift to the School of Forest Resources, the MTCT has made a substantial grant to the New England Forestry Foundation to open and staff its first satellite office in Maine and enable NEFF to establish its presence in Maine as a “go to” regional resource for forest conservation and sustainable forest management, co-trustee Timothy Ingraham said.
Patricia Cummings, Associate Vice President for Development, expressed appreciation for donors who recognize the importance of UMaine’s research to the state’s economy and who provide the equipment for UMaine students to gain hands-on experience to prepare them as future stewards of our forest resources. “We look forward to dedicating the Barbara Wheatland Geospatial Analysis Lab in the newly renovated Nutting Hall,” she said.