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Maria Sharpe (BScF'07) is helping to improve the culture of wildland fire in Canada as fire science manager

Author: UNB Alumni

Posted on Apr 26, 2022

Category: Inspiring Stories , UNB Fredericton


Maria Sharpe (BScF’07) didn’t fall far from the tree when she followed in her father’s footsteps to study in UNB’s faculty of forestry and environmental management. Now working as the Fire Science Manager with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) in Alberta, Sharpe is helping to improve the culture of wildland fire in Canada.

In her role with CIFFC, Sharpe provides leadership to a diverse group of committee members representing the provinces, territories, Parks Canada, the Canadian Forest Service and non-government agencies. She also co-leads annual post-fire season discussions on behalf of CIFFC in conjunction with Canada Wildfire and Canadian Forest Service, and hosts monthly Fire Management Conversations.

“In wildland fire, we have two busy seasons,” says Sharpe. “In the winter I’m facilitating strategic planning meetings or working with committees and working groups to determine how we can best improve the culture of wildland fire in Canada.”

“In the summer, I focus internally to support Canadian wildland fire management efforts by filling in as the CIFFC duty officer or CIFFC rep embedded within a busy provincial or territorial fire center to help support the coordination of resources within Canada or internationally.”

Sharpe says the opportunity to work outside has always reassured her that she made exactly the right career choice.  But her career in forestry has certainly also come with its own set of unique challenges.

Though she didn’t recognize it at the time, entering the forest industry as a woman in the early 2000s was a significant challenge. Today, many of the same obstacles exist for women entering the field, including personal protective equipment still being largely designed for men.

“Now more than ever though, we are seeing women in significant leadership roles, and I strongly believe there is huge momentum building and finally propelling women into the positions they deserve.”

Sharpe says UNB’s forestry program provided her with a solid foundation of integrated resource management that positioned her well to fully consider the impacts of forestry-related decisions. Since her studies at UNB, Sharpe has worked in a number of unique roles in the industry including as a forest ecologist, woodlot manager, communications officer, silviculture forester, and wildfire management specialist.

“From what I see, this unique and engrained understanding and consideration appears to be particularly strong within the UNB graduates I’ve worked with throughout my career.  I am also convinced that my strong leadership and management skills harnessed during my days at UNB have given me the confidence to lead strong and diverse national teams.”

Truly passionate about her field of work, Sharpe loves that there is still so much about the forests and people, and how they interact, that we have yet to understand. She hopes that one day, like her father, her love for forestry will translate to feeling like she has ‘never worked a day in her life.'