Two Lake Tahoe teens are representing the United States in Moscow at the ninth annual Junior Foresters' Competition this week, the first time the United States is participating in the event.
This year, 60 students from 32 countries are competing before an international panel of 15 forestry experts who will judge the students' projects.
Emily Barnett and Tyler Myers, seniors at South Tahoe High School, are presenting their field research project, "The Effects of Fire and Forest Thinning on the Biodiversity of Understory Plants in the Lake Tahoe Basin."
Their project, which involved field work, data analysis and a 20-page paper summarizing their results, was selected by the U.S. Forest Service's International Programs Office in Washington, D.C., to represent the United States in the competition, which started Wednesday and ends Friday.
Barnett and Myers are leaders in a forestry conservation student club, Generation Green Program, and have worked with the Youth Conservation Corps and as summer interns with the Forest Service's Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
When they learned of the international competition in Russia, they began designing a project to enter, working in their free time Fridays and weekends this summer while also working with the management unit's Botany and Aquatics Crew.
"At first, it was just another idea we would longingly joke about," Barnett said, "but as time went on, we started to talk seriously about it and started making plans."
As soon as school ended in June, she said, "Tyler and I were out in the field collecting data."
The students' participation in the competition is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Forest Service and the Russian Federal Forestry Agency, said Cheva Heck, a public affairs officer with the management unit.
"These two agencies have collaborated for over 50 years on research, technical cooperation and policy issues," Heck said in a news release.
Like the United States, Russia contains temperate and boreal forests, which share similar species, health problems and some common threats, Heck said.
Both countries benefit from exchanging lessons learned through their extensive experiences in forest research and management, she said, and are committed to engaging youth in innovative projects and fostering interest in careers in natural resource management.
Barnett and Myers have received scholarships from the Forest Service's International Programs Office to cover their travel costs.
All the competitors' in-country expenses are covered by the Russian Federal Forestry Agency.