Ben Z McCallister

Ben McCallister

Forestry and Natural Resources

Urban Forestry Specialist
FORS Room 110
195 Marstellar Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907

Why Extension?

Tell us about your background?
I am originally from West Lafayette and have always enjoyed spending time outdoors hiking and taking photos. I graduated from Purdue in 2006 with a BA in Photography then moved to Japan to teach English for 8 years. I returned to Indiana in 2015 to pursue a degree in Forestry, was introduced to arboriculture and urban forestry, and never looked back.

After graduating in 2018, I attained my ISA Arborist Certification and headed to Portland, OR for a year to work as a climbing arborist for Bartlett Tree Experts. In that time, I was accepted into the FNR graduate program back at Purdue and returned in 2019 to pursue my Master’s in Urban Ecology. While I was finishing my program I began work as one of the campus arborists at Purdue. I finished my Master’s in the summer of 2021 and continued as campus arborist until joining the Extension team as the Urban Forestry Specialist in June 2022.
How did you come to work in Urban Forestry?

I was originally drawn to this field for the climbing aspect in arboriculture.  I joined the Purdue Student Society of Arboriculture (PSSA) as an undergrad and in my time was lucky to learn from club officers before me as well as Lindsey Purcell (the previous Urban Forestry Specialist), act as president for the club, and attend the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) Expo where I was introduced to an amazing community of tree care specialists.

I have also had some fantastic internships and job opportunities along the way.  As a student, I had summer internships at the Indianapolis Davey Tree office and Bellinger’s here in town.  After finishing my undergrad, I worked with an amazing set of professionals at the Bartlett office in Clackamas, OR, where learned more about proper pruning, removals, and an introduction to Bonsai work.

When I returned to graduate school, my focus was on urban ecology.  I was excited to use LiDAR to study structural canopy differences between urban and non-urban forest edges and their cores.  I’ve been at Purdue since then, working as one of the campus arborists caring for and helping to plan the urban forest around the university and now as the Urban Forestry Specialist.

How did you get involved with FNR Extension and outreach?
I first got involved with extension and outreach by putting people that have never climbed like an arborist up in a tree canopy. With the Ginkgo gathering every fall semester and the PSSA climbing events, I always enjoyed teaching people about what trees do for us and how we care for them. As a student, I was in and out of Lindsey’s office all the time with career questions and about new climbing techniques. From those interactions, I was able to help with different extension and outreach projects that drew me in more with every interaction. What really solidified my desire to work in extension was the Natural Resource Extension Programming course in grad school, taught by Dr. Brian Macgowan and Dr. Rod Williams. With that course and the experiences I’d had so far, I was excited to pursue a career in Extension and outreach.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I’m excited about working with different groups of people like homeowners wanting to know how to better care for their trees, current and future arborists and urban foresters, and students around the state.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
The biggest challenge so far is making sure I am able to answer the different questions that come my way with the most up to date information.
What part of your job did you least expect to be doing?
Probably the office and paperwork included with the position. I knew I would have more than I was accustomed to, but I’m still getting used to it.
Do you have an outside hobby?
I enjoy hunting, running, and spending time with my family.