Anthony Davis (Professor, Forester)

Raising trees from seed for a sustainable future  

Anthony Davis has a special affinity for growing trees and contributing to sustainable forests. As a young college student in Canada, he had the opportunity to plant trees and work outdoors. That inspired him to learn more about the science of growing trees and pursue a Ph.D. in the field of silviculture. Nowadays, he oversees the Pitkin Forest Nursery as part of his duties as the Director of the University of Idaho Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research.

Each year, the Pitkin Forest Nursery raises about 400,000 seedlings ready to be planted in Idaho’s forests and elsewhere. The nursery grows an impressive diversity of plants and trees as well — 70 different species. “As an undergrad, I knew that I wanted to be in a field where I contributed to 

Forest regeneration,” Davis says. “The effective practice of silviculture requires knowledge of so many fields: how plants grow; administration; problem solving; economics. I felt this was a noble challenge that suited my skills and interests.” Davis enjoys raising trees that lead to sustainable forests in Idaho. “Our forest resources are the closest thing we really have to a sustainable resource,” he says. “So when we start a crop of seedlings, and we’re able to grow them, that becomes a key part of our sustainable forests.” Intelligent management of forests is a key ingredient in the concept of sustainability, Davis says. “Our forests, when properly managed, can be a source of building materials, clean water supplies, and fuel for energy. As foresters, we manage for future generations. We are concerned about making sure there is a sustained yield of products over time.”

As a university professor, Davis enjoys teaching students the skills and know-how they’ll need to manage sustainable forests in the future. “I truly believe that our resources need to be directed into future generations,” he says. “Whether we are talking about regenerating a forest, and how we work so hard to leave the land in better condition when we finish than when we start, or where we develop the skills needed for students to apply state-of-the-art knowledge to traditional  professions.”

Davis learned the science of growing healthy trees in a wide variety of forests in North America — from the forests of northern Ontario, Canada, to hardwood forests in Indiana, where he obtained his Ph.D. from Purdue University, to the softwood forests in Idaho.

He shares his knowledge in a unique way because of his multiple roles at the University of Idaho — teaching, operating the nursery and research. “I teach a core course, Forest Regeneration, in the Forest Resources undergraduate program, conduct research on nursery production as well as the behavior of plants under varied environmental conditions, and serve Idahoans by hosting workshops and transferring technology to professionals and landowners,” he says.

Research about native trees is crucial, Davis says.” Understanding how water, carbon, and nitrogen
cycles work – and are influenced by our daily activities – requires a strong understanding of trees,” he says. “Our drinking water depends on healthy forests. Wood provides us with a renewable source of building materials; trees and the by-products of timber processing are a good, local source of energy; and trees provide food and shelter for humans and wildlife.”

Forestry students will enjoy the dynamics of a forestry career and the side benefit of working
outdoors, Davis says. “The future is full of possibilities. As we continue to pay more and more
attention to our natural resources (renewable materials, energy security), jobs will require people who can manage based on science,” he says. “Research has fueled great advances in American productivity and will continue to do so. The opportunity exists for our graduates to be leaders in their fields, bringing cutting-edge findings to work every day, while spending time in our beautiful forests!”

He encourages his students to travel widely and learn core sciences to assist in a promising career. “Travel and see the forests of the United States and the world, and talk to people in different parts of the world to enhance the scope of what you see here,” he says. “Base management on science. If you look at the great gains in productivity over the past couple of hundred years, it has been through science.”

Family: Professor Davis is married to Amy Ross-Davis and they have
two children, Sam and Abby.

Want to know more?

º General information about the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources:

º Professor Anthony Davis faculty bio:

º Information about the UI Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research:

º Pitkin Forest Nursery:

º Research projects under way at the UI Center for Forest Nursery and Seedling Research:

º Learn about U of I research “Return of the Giants – Restoring Western White Pine to the Inland Northwest”

º Learn about Idaho’s softwood trees:

º Learn about reforestation and job creation: