Jordan Luff, a first-year master’s student in the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, received a national Society of American Foresters (SAF) award honoring his role as a student leader in the field of forestry. He accepted the award at the SAF National Convention in Portland, Oregon, October 3-7, 2018. 

While an undergraduate forest management student at North Carolina State University, Jordan became an immediate leader among his student peers and helped to reinvigorate the student chapter of SAF as chair. He also served as student representative for the SAF district including Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. He headed up NCSU chapter fund-raising to support student trips that he led to Appalachia SAF meetings and to the 2017 SAF National Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He also organized numerous student mentoring activities and field trips. 

Jordan grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. After high school, he worked at odd jobs and played bass and sang back-up in a rock band that toured the United States and Europe. Ten years later, he turned to his interest in the outdoors and earned an associate in applied science degree in the forest management technology program at Haywood Community College in North Carolina. He excelled in the program, became a teaching assistant in forestry courses, and interned or volunteered with various organizations in the state on forestry, ecology, and recreation projects. 

As a non-traditional student with communication and fund-raising skills developed during his ten years of work and people experience, he joined Haywood’s student chapter of SAF and served as treasurer. Attending his first regional SAF meeting, he discovered the opportunity to meet and network with professionals to help further his career. 

“When professionals see students get involved, they get excited about the future of the forestry profession and are eager to help students succeed,” said Jordan, who decided early on that the best way to be involved was in a position of leadership. 

Jordan went on to complete his BS in forest management at NCSU where he was selected as an “Engaging Leader” to represent the College of Natural Resources and the forest management major. In addition to his SAF leadership involvement, Jordan built forestry career experience as a research technician in the forest physiology laboratory at the university and for the state agriculture department. He processed woody biomass and soil samples for ecosystem carbon cycling studies and helped to manage and inventory timber stands in the state. 

Reflecting on connections he made with U.S. Forest Service scientists through SAF, Jordan said, “I think about a career in forest research eventually, but first I hope to work for the Forest Service or a state agency like I did in North Carolina.” 

For now, to continue his passion for ecology and forest management, Jordan came to UVM to work with Professor Tony D’Amato in the Rubenstein School on a master’s degree in natural resources. With a concentration in forest science, Jordan will conduct his thesis research on the long-term dynamics of mixed wood forests in northern New York and New England. He will focus on how to increase biodiversity in this ecosystem and encourage regrowth and recovery of red spruce, a tree species that has been exploited through decades of over-harvesting.  

Jordan considers sharing his SAF experience with the predominantly undergraduate UVM chapter of SAF. “Graduate involvement in SAF could be beneficial to both undergrads and graduates,” he said. 

Jordan lives in Burlington with his wife, Sam Ehrike, a professional baker and pastry artist, who accepted a job at Mirabelle’s Café and Bakery within two days of arriving in town from Asheville. Jordan and Sam are avid travelers who regularly hike and backpack both nationally and internationally. At home, they enjoy long walks with their blue tick hound Bennet.