(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
On Sunday, June 12, the Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment in Rehovot hosted the presentation ceremony of "Future Forester" scholarships to participants in the academic program for Forestry, Landscape Management and Sustainable Development. The grant fund is the initiative of Ronnie Appleby, a Toronto lawyer who created the fund at the 2004 KKL-JNF Negev Dinner in Toronto.
Professor Ronnie Friedman, Dean of the Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture, asked one of the recipients of the Appleby "Future Foresters" scholarships why she chose to specialize in the field of forestry. "I looked at all the various tracks that the university offered, and something about forestry appealed to me," she replied. "This is what I have always felt," Professor Friedman responded. "The choice to study forestry is a choice that is made primarily from the heart."
"The awarding of the Appleby scholarships is the realization of a vision," Professor Friedman continued. "The Faculty of Agriculture has changed over the past decade, focusing more and more on integrating agriculture with the environment. In my opinion, not enough students have chosen to specialize in this important field. It is my hope that by next year's ceremony, the number of students in this program will have increased."
KKL-JNF Chief Forester David Brand emceed the ceremony: "The United Nations declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests. It is also the year in which KKL-JNF is celebrating its 110th anniversary. KKL-JNF manages over two million dunams of planted forest, natural woodlands and open spaces, and we need professionals with an academic background to ensure the future of Israel's forests.
"I would like to thank Ronnie Appleby, who founded the scholarship fund at the Negev Dinner in Toronto, Canada. We hope to increase the number of scholarships in the future, and KKL-JNF looks forward to absorbing some of the program's graduates in its afforestation department."
Professor Haim Kigel, Division Coordinator of the Faculty of Agriculture's Land Management and Sustainable Development Department, described the Future Forester training program: "The program is challenging. Most of the courses are mandatory, with very few electives. We are the only institution in Israel where one can study for a bachelor's degree in management of open spaces. We are proud that our graduates will be doing professional work that is critical for Israel's environment."
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Ira Haitin is a former recipient of an Appleby scholarship and KKL-JNF's first female forester: "I was attracted to the program because I wanted to combine theoretical knowledge with practical work in the field. After my first year of studies, I learned about all the different aspects of KKL-JNF's forestry activities, including forest maintenance and care, monitoring and surveying, forest budgeting, field experiments, and more. Working in all the different aspects of afforestation was a very unique and important part of my professional training, and I would like to thank the Applebys and KKL-JNF for making it possible."
In honor of the special occasion, Dr. Yael Mandelik of the Entomology Department presented a fascinating lecture on the topic of "Diversity Patterns and Pollination Services by Wild Bees". "Bees are nature's main provider of pollination services," Dr. Mandelik noted. "Unfortunately, over the past few years, there has been a collapse in the number of honey bees in the world due to disease, with a loss of 70-80% of active beehives. Farmers are looking for other ways of pollinating their crops, and alternative methods have been experimented with, including various types of mechanical pollination. Scientific and applied research to date has shown that natural pollinators are still the best, so one of the questions we asked ourselves was how wild bees function as pollinators both quantitatively and qualitatively, in nature, field crops and trees.
"Israel is a paradise for bee researchers. There are about 18,000 species of bees throughout the world, and our small country has over 1,000 different types of bees. Israel has also been less affected than other regions by the collapse in the bee population. We studied both planted crops such as almond trees, sunflowers and watermelons, and also natural flora. In the case of planted crops, we found that 88-99% of the pollination was still done by honey bees.
"We also compared hi-tech Israeli agriculture in the Central Arava desert with its more traditional Jordanian counterpart on the other side of the border. The Israeli farmers grow watermelons in plastic tunnels, while the Jordanians grow them in the open field. We found that wild bees will not enter the plastic tunnels, but between 30-64% of the pollination in the open-air fields on the Jordanian side of the border is done by wild bees.
"In terms of natural flora, we chose six plants for our model, which provides us with a range in the degree of difficulty involved in pollinating the different plants. Our findings showed that only wild bees are capable of pollinating plants whose structure demands exact and expert pollination techniques. These findings are very important both for farmers and also for the conservation of Israel's open spaces. If the wild bee population is harmed, many species of flora will not be able to survive, so bees are critical for nature and for biodiversity."
After the students were presented with the scholarships and a KKL-JNF album entitled "The Source of it All", Aviv Levi, one of the students, thanked KKL-JNF and the Applebys on behalf of the recipients: "We are very grateful to KKL-JNF and to the donors for providing us with these scholarships. They enable us to devote more time to our studies, since they allow us to work less in our free time, which is very limited in any case. I would like to thank KKL-JNF, JNF Canada, the Appleby family and all their friends. We are proud to be Appleby recipients."
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