Danijela Puric-Mladenovic – New LEAF Board Member and Urban Forest Champion!

Danijela Puric-Mladenovic has recently joined the LEAF Board of Directors. In this blog, our Executive Director, Janet McKay interviews Danijela about her experience and her motivation for becoming a LEAF Board member.


What is your interest and motivation in serving for LEAF as a board member?

As a result of diverse experiences in science, research, professional and volunteering activities across urban and peri-urban landscapes, I have developed a strong understanding and opinion about the importance of community engagement in forest stewardship and management. I have been impressed with how strategic leadership and commitment inspire people to care about their land and resources and mobilize communities to plant new trees and save existing forests and trees. I believe that LEAF is one of those distinctive community and stewardship leaders. 

Over the years, I have worked with LEAF on several projects, and I am impressed with LEAF's growth in terms of the diversity of the programs it delivers, its credibility, and its spatial expansion across the GTA.  I believe that LEAF is in the right position to lead private urban forest stewardship and strategically support and link private landowners and municipalities. I believe we have a shared vision related to urban forest conservation on private lands and  am honoured to support LEAF efforts in its urban forestry endeavours. 


What experience do you bring?

My applied research and professional work aim to solve problems in settled and urbanized landscapes and are driven by diverse needs spanning from municipal, provincial, federal governments to non-governmental organizations, to conservation groups. Working in applied research has allowed me to engage with problem-solving science, develop solutions, and see the outcomes of my work be implemented across southern Ontario. As part of my applied research program, Forests in Settled and Urban Landscapes, I work with dozens of partner organizations on a variety of different research themes, including: urban and peri-urban forestry, monitoring indicators, predictive mapping of vegetation, forest biomass, carbon and ecological goods and services, historical ecology, and analysis of the effects of anthropogenic climate change on Ontario's forests. 

For example, to address the knowledge, information, stewardship, and management gap related to trees on private lands, Dr. Andy Kenney and I developed the Neighbourwoods© urban forest inventory and monitoring protocol. Neighbourwoods© is also a planning and stewardship tool that aids citizens and community groups conserve and enhance the urban forest in their communities. The protocol and program have been active for 25 years and have been applied by numerous communities across southern Ontario. I have also envisioned and developed Vegetation Sampling Protocol (VSP) — a strategic, broad-scale sampling program that supports natural areas monitoring and inventory in urban and peri-urban landscapes. 
What do you see as some of the most pressing issues facing urban forests?
Urban development, growth, and forestry in Ontario and Canada need to keep up with the pressing environmental and social needs of the 21st century. These issues are numerous and range from policy, management and stewardship, to land use planning and urban development, and further, to species selection. Ultimately, there is a need to  make cities healthy and livable. Since the municipal governments are responsible for just for a portion of the urban forest ( public lands), our urban forest conservation, restoration, and planning efforts will only be successful with the strategic involvement of communities in forest stewardship and land management.  

The positive impact of urban forest stewardship, however, is increasingly far-reaching, as the public engaged in urban forest stewardship gains environmental and urban forest knowledge.  Such an educated and engaged public is a powerhouse of cultural and societal shifts capable of demanding sustainable development and urban forest conservation and restoration policies.  

Are you involved in any other community work?

I continue to co-lead the Neighbourwoods© tree inventory and stewardship program and volunteer time to train community members in tree identification and analysis to manage their forest. The Neighbourwoods© program has benefitted many community groups across southern Ontario. 
I am also part of the Canadian Urban Forest Network Steering Committee, coordinated by Tree Canada. I believe that forest and conservation efforts will be more successful if scientific research findings are communicated to a broader audience. As such, I use every outreach opportunity to share my knowledge with partners and the public. 




Janet McKay is the Executive Director at LEAF.


Danijela Puric-Mladenovic is an Urban Forest Champion - someone who has made a positive impact on our urban forest through their professional, volunteer or personal efforts.



Read more our Urban Forest Champion blog series here.