July 29, 2010

Terrell T. “Red” Baker recently assumed the position of chair of the University of Kentucky Department of Forestry in the College of Agriculture.

Baker came to UK from New Mexico State University, where he served as professor and riparian management specialist, focusing on ecology and management of riparian areas, rangeland and woodlands. He also was the coordinator/director of the Range Improvement Task Force, which required a thorough understanding of public land policy and management. Both positions required him to develop close working relationships with representatives of the agricultural industry, conservation organizations and local, state and federal government officials.

“My time in New Mexico was very enriching,” he said. “It was an opportunity to grow and learn professionally, as well as personally.”

Baker, who spent his youth in Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee, received a bachelor’s degree in economics from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tn. After the realization that he should follow his passion into a career in forestry, he completed his master’s degree in forest resources at Clemson University and his doctorate in forest biology at Auburn University.

Baker’s wife, Mairead, was born and raised in Glasgow, so he has spent a great deal of time in Kentucky.

“I fell in love with Kentucky, and when the opportunity came up for us to come back here and interview, I was pretty excited,” he said. “The bones of this department are very strong. There’s a group of very motivated faculty and staff who are 100 percent committed to making good things happen. I view it as part of my job to help them do that, to help them be successful.”

Though on the surface, Kentucky and New Mexico may seem a world apart in their landscapes and natural resource management issues, Baker said people in both states rely heavily on their land grant universities.

“This department has a rich tradition serving the people of Kentucky through its land grant mission,” he said. “I want to do everything I can to help continue that tradition of serving the people, through our extension functions, our research functions and through our teaching mission.”

As he sees it, part of that job will require that he travel the state and establish relationships with its people—something he looks forward to doing. It’s just another way, Baker said, of following his passion.