LAKE COUNTY - Forester Josh Shields recently received the Conservation Pioneer of the Year award from the Conservation District Employees of Michigan. The award recognizes Shields as "an innovative thinker and leader in the field," according to a Manistee Conservation District press release. "Keeping up with the progress of science would be one way to think of it," Shields told the News Advocate. "We do things a certain way for so many years, and then that can change as new science comes along and that's the approach I try to take when I'm trying to help landowners." CDEM is a member-elected board of directors, all of whom are employees of conservation districts around the state. Shields, of Manistee, has worked in the Forestry Assistance Program for the Manistee and Mason-Lake Conservation districts since 2014. Conservation districts are local government entities that work to enhance and conserve soil, water, wildlife and other natural resources, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development website. "Josh's calendar always fills up with requests for presentations from school, watershed groups and other events to share his wealth of forestry knowledge," reads part of Shields' nomination. Shields' work with the conservation districts include forest inventory and management, as well as research, outreach and education services. Other services he can provide include: timber harvest planning, managing forests for wildlife habitat, forest disease and pest management, state and federal forestry assistance programs, state tax incentive programs, connection to consulting foresters and national resources professionals. "He does a lot of outreach education and training. He has a Ph.D. in his field, and Josh is also grant covered so he is a free resource," said Renee Mallison, Manistee County Conservation District executive director in a previous interview. Shields said he felt honored to be recognized by CDEC. "Its extremely humbling because I have a lot of colleagues that are as talented if not more talented than me. I'm very thankful to have such a great team of peers at the conservation districts," he said. Among his contributions, Shields said he has conducted experiments to benefit landowners in Manistee and Mason counties. "I run experiments in different parts of the counties that I cover to basically gather data that can help landowners with new ways of implementing certain types of management," Shields said. He is currently conducting an experiment in Mason County. By injecting fungicide into oak trees, he hopes to find new ways to prevent the spread of oak wilt, a fungal disease known to ravage oak forests. "The use of a do-it-yourself injector and that data could provide a more accessible way for landowners to do treatments as opposed to paying a lot of money on fancier equipment," he said. Another experiment headed by Shields in Mason and Manistee counties is aimed at controlling the invasive autumn olive. "I'm experimenting with herbicides that have much lower concentrations of the active ingredient," he said. "That would go against the traditional way of treating autumn olive which is using a pretty potent mixture of herbicide. What I'm finding with my projects is that you don't actually have to use that high of a potency in your mixture and there is some ready-to-use versions with much lower concentrations of the poison that will still do the job." Shields is a certified forester with the Society of American Foresters, a certified wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Society and a certified commercial pesticide applicator in forestry, right-of-way and aquatic areas. Shields received a B.S. in Applied Ecology and Environmental Science, and M.S. in Forest Ecology and Management from Michigan Technological University. He also received his Ph.D. in Forestry from Purdue University. In his free time, Shields enjoys playing guitar, practicing martial arts, and enjoying the outdoors, according to the news release. To learn more about the Manistee Conservation District or to request landowner or farm assistance, visit www.manisteecd2.org.