“I want to save the world”

Meet Linnéa Jägrud, a forest consultant who focuses on the climate.

“I’ve always been driven by a desire to save the world. When I was 16 I wanted to save the blue whale, and I studied marine biology at upper secondary school. Now my main motivation is working with climate issues in various ways. In my work as a forest consultant at the Swedish Forest Agency, this involves a focus on water and forests. I started working here about six months after graduating from the biology programme in 2005, and I’ve been here ever since. It’s a stimulating role with plenty of opportunities to develop and to learn and do new things.

When I joined the agency, I mainly worked with land conservation and advising land owners. This involved visiting the forest and helping land owners to plan felling in order not to harm streams and other watercourses. Since 2011, I’ve been working on a major EU project to develop new planning tools for forests and water. We work with a checklist called blue target classification, which is used when planning a good, ecologically functional buffer zone – the area between a watercourse and the section to be felled. It’s important to keep a relatively wide buffer zone so that land owners don’t cut down trees right up as far as the water. The buffer zone filters and cleans run-off water before it reaches streams. It also reduces erosion and benefits the wildlife living in the stream.

I currently work extensively with the Baltic States, Finland, Russia and Chile. We exchange a lot of information, and we’re developing blue target classifications in line with their circumstances.

The experience and knowledge from the biology programme that I use the most in my everyday work comes from when we left the campus and carried out study visits, work placements and field work. I went straight from upper secondary school to university, and didn’t have a clue how I would use my studies professionally. It was actually a study visit to the county administrative board that persuaded me to specialise in freshwater. Until then I’d focused entirely on the oceans. I wanted to be a marine biologist, but knew that this was a tough field to get into. During the study visit, I came across a brochure about new EU directives for freshwater and realised that this would involve jobs.

It was a tactical, conscious choice. I hadn’t previously been interested in freshwater. For example, I found the thought of mosquito larvae quite repulsive. But the more I read about it, the more fascinated I became. The advantage of freshwater is that the concepts are easier to understand. The sea is so complex. There are so many factors involved, and you have to carry out tricky calculations of large-scale changes, flows, and so on. Freshwater is also affected by other factors, but getting an overview is a bit easier. I’m glad I made my tactical choice.

I’ve realised how important it is to specialise, and I wish I’d gone into more depth during my studies. I wish I’d taken more advanced courses and fewer general courses. But even then, I realised how important the thesis was and put a lot of energy and ambition into it. That was when I specialised in buffer zones, and it’s thanks to my thesis that I got a job at the Swedish Forest Agency.

Something else that I really like about my job is getting to meet so many people. Interpersonal skills are important as a forest consultant. When you walk around forests with landowners, you have a lot of interesting conversations. You can’t just issue orders. You have to find the middle ground and engage in a dialogue on what needs to be done, which I enjoy. My job has also inspired a new passion for trees. I enjoy looking for human features in trees. I might see a foot, an elbow or a funny hairstyle, and I sometimes even think that the land owners’ personalities are like different trees. I’ve become so interested in it that I’ve written a book about trees from a humanistic perspective.

I find it easy to embark on projects, like this book, and my main challenge is not to try doing everything at once. I now try to focus on just five things at a time, and to stay on track with water in forests. My energy is my strength. I’m imaginative and creative, and I’m good at running and implementing projects. I’ve also learnt to write good applications and to secure funding for various projects. We’ve now received SEK 1.4 million from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute for a project that runs for the rest of the year. This involves stopping greenhouse gas emissions from drained drylands and finding ways to keep water in the landscape.

What I currently miss in my work is spending as much time out in the forest as I did during my first few years as a forest consultant. I tend to be stuck in the office these days, which I don’t like. I love grey, stormy weather. I’m a bit of an outdoor fascist. I get plenty of chances to be outdoors during my leisure time, as we’re a family of part-time farmers. We run an animal collective together with a few other families on Björkö, where we live. There’s nothing better than being out in the mud and rain with our pigs, sheep and hens.

Linnéa Jägrud

Age: 39.
Profession: Water biologist.
Education: Biology programme at the University of Gothenburg, graduated in 2005.
Lives: Björkö, in the northern archipelago of Gothenburg.
Family: Husband and two children, with a third on the way. Also has aquarium fish, hens, sheep and pigs.
Leisure interests: Runs an animal collective with four other families on Björkö. Also enjoys sailing, old houses and travel.