clay turner


I am a Natural Resources and Environmental Science major at the University of Kentucky in the class of 2022.  I have been married a little over five years and have a son, 3, and a daughter, 1. Having children made me think more deeply about how our actions impact future generations.  After working for several years as an attorney, I realized the protection of the natural world is critical if my children are to enjoy nature as I do.  I began envisioning a career committed to conservation through the management of forests and other natural resources.  I decided to return to school and have gained invaluable experience working at the Arboretum, with Dr. Ellen Crocker of UK’s Forest Health Research and Education Center, and now UFI.  After graduation, I hope to build upon these experiences and help manage forests sustainably.

Below is a short interview with Clay:


How do the goals and objectives of Urban Forest Initiative align with your interests?

The Urban Forest Initiative’s mission lines up with my reasons for returning to school and changing careers.  UFI seeks to protect and enhance the urban tree canopy on UK’s campus and in the entire Bluegrass region while planning for the future urban forest here.  I also want to see Lexington’s urban tree canopy developed in a way that benefits the health and well-being of all its residents.  In addition, UFI works to raise awareness about the ecological and social benefits of urban trees.  Before I came back to school, I was really unaware of all the services urban trees provide to those living in cities.  Like UFI, I want to help the general public understand just how important urban trees are and hopefully utilize that increased awareness to further cultivate the urban tree canopy in ways that positively impact the whole community.  


What excites you about working with UFI as part of this internship?

I began pursuing my NRES degree in the spring semester of 2020, and was only on campus a couple of months before the pandemic forced a transition to remote learning, making it difficult to form relationships with other students and professors.  Working with UFI has provided me with the opportunity to connect with individuals who care about the same issues I do and are working diligently to improve Lexington’s urban tree canopy.  I am really excited to learn from them while also seeing the wider network of people and organizations who are deeply invested in enriching Lexington’s urban forest.  It is fascinating to witness up close how a shared vision of a broad range of people can create meaningful change.


How do you feel about trees?

When I am among trees, I feel at peace.  Growing up, I did not spend much time outside and lacked a deeper connection with nature.  Over the past ten years, my love of trees has grown steadily and played a big role in my decision to change careers.  My favorite hobby is trail running and when I run in a forest I feel an immense sense of calm.  My appreciation for trees in urban settings has also grown immensely and I love to see my kids play in them!