Kent County SUNDAY spoke with four professionals in behind-the-scenes fields to get a better idea of what they do and what makes the work worthwhile.
DOT ABBOTT, Extension agent, renewable resources
University of Delaware Cooperative Extension
16 years on the job
When Dot Abbott closes her eyes at night, she sees trees – lots and lots of them. That’s because she works with them more than the average person.
Abbott works out of the Kent County office in Dover for the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension as an extension agent in renewable resources. Her position is statewide, providing professional insight to companies and groups on how to better understand the trees growing on their property and giving advice on landscaping and wildlife issues that might exist there.
Q How did you get into this profession?
A I got into it because my grandfather owned a lumber yard down in Felton, Simpler Lumber Company. When I was little I used to go down there and just go through the lumber, the sawdust piles. I was drawn to the concept of the wood industry. Unfortunately, he died before I turned 10. But I think that was my biggest start in wanting to be involved in tree management, forestry and the environment as a whole.
Q What do you enjoy most about your job?
A Looking back, I started my career with USDA. I went out and worked with farmers. I did erosion sediment control conservation activities. Then I had an opportunity to work as a forester for the state of Delaware. The whole time what I really focused on was my enjoyment to help people understand not only their trees, the benefits they can give, but also the whole ecosystem as it comes together.
Q What’s the toughest thing about your job?
A Getting people to actually implement what’s necessary. There’s a lot of resistance, especially when you have an affinity to trees, to shrubs. A case in point would be somebody plants a Christmas tree that was very special to them. And unfortunately, the tree is consumed with insects and disease and really needs to be removed and another tree replanted. That’s a tough call, because you have to be compassionate and understanding and just work with the homeowner or landowner, the person, on a one-on-one basis.
Q What’s a misconception or something that most people don’t know about your job?
A I think they don’t really know the full gamut of what Cooperative Extension can do to help them. Unfortunately right now, there’s a lot of turning towards the computer, to the Internet to non-research-based information. And that’s a shame, because there’s still an opportunity for the one-on-one contact and that’s what cooperative extension offers to people.