Wednesday, May 18, 2016

International Fellow Spotlight: Samantha Kwan

Each month, you can learn about one of the WFC’s visiting International Fellows who has been selected for a six-month assignment to collaborate with forestry practitioners here in the Pacific Northwest. The Fellows are passionate, engaged in their local communities, and committed to driving change in forest management practices around the globe. 

Join us at the World Forestry Center headquarters in Portland on May 26th for a unique opportunity to meet these global leaders in natural resources management from eight different countries. Read more and RSVP here.

Where are you from?
I am a Park Manager on the island of Borneo in the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

You’ve been here in the United States for two weeks so far. Tell us a little bit about your journey.
It’s my first time in the United States. I traveled for over 30 hours through six airports before arriving in Portland International Airport. The U.S. Embassy in Malaysia recommended that I watch the show Portlandia before arriving to help me prepare. So far, it’s pretty accurate.

What attracted you to the World Forest Institute Fellowship Program?
Portland has one of the best examples in the world for management and rehabilitation of urban forests.

What were you doing before you arrived in Portland?
I work for the Sarawak Forestry Corporation – which is the implementing agency of the ordinances related to wildlife and forestry – owned by the Government of Sarawak. As the Park Manager, I’m responsible for stopping prohibited activities like illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, and illegal encroachment into protected areas. I believe I am one of the few female enforcement officers in Sarawak. Right now, I’m overseeing a multi-year 220-acre rehabilitation project for Piasau Nature Reserve, which was a residential area for employees of Shell Oil Company since the 1940s.

What’s on your wish list of things to accomplish while working at the World Forestry Center?
A deeper understanding of plant phenology and how environmental changes and urban population can affect the habitat of wildlife in urban forests. Personally, I hope to leave with a more holistic view in life and be more open-minded with how I go about my work as a forester. By the end of the program, I’ll have learned about forest practices not only in the United States, but also in Nigeria, Poland, India, and other parts of the world.

What’s one of your most exciting observations so far?
More cost-effective and sustainable solutions for utilizing rainwater.

Tell us something obscure about yourself.My ancestors were headhunters. In some traditional houses back home, they still keep the sculls of their enemies in the attics. I’m also a scuba diver. I love being underwater.

What do you miss the most about home?
The weather and my family. I can connect with them through Facebook WhatsApp, email, and video technology. But the time difference is 15 hours, so that is challenging. They are already into the future.

You can meet Samantha and the seven other Fellows at the WFC’s International Night on May 26th. You can email her at

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