Branching Out

By Hannah Wallace November 30, 2008

After a more earthbound vocation, Odis Sisk, 27, has made an international career in the high-risk profession of tree climbing.

“I started out working for a small company out of Clarkesville, Ga., as a pressurized pipe welder. I had taken welding in high school as an elective and I was decent at it, so I thought it would be a good career.

“But I am the fourth generation of loggers, and my family owns a sawmill business in Georgia. My father was a state representative of a utility clearance company that pruned trees and helped maintain the integrity of the utility system. The majority of my family is still in the business.

“I went a different direction. I am a preservation arborist at Aborscape in Sarasota—a 31-year-old company—where I’m a partner. We use scientific-based tree care to preserve living organisms and to determine whether a tree must be removed. I met owner-president Bruce Smith at a training session for arborists, and I was fascinated with his company. They are a preservation-based company—only in the worst-case scenario does the company remove trees. The majority of companies don’t take the same approach to tree care. If the homeowner wants the tree removed, they remove it.

“I am also an instructor at North American Training Solutions, which trains tree climbers. I have traveled to several countries in the past three months and all over the country. We teach safety techniques and aerial rescue skills to arborists, the coast guard, municipal governments and firemen.

“Arborists now have the second deadliest job in America after deep sea fishermen. Every 3.4 days an arborist has a fatal injury. That’s why we’re so passionate about training. Cops and firemen have money for training. We don’t have that luxury. We have to rely on sponsors. Arborists, depending on the region they’re working in, make between $35,000 to $65,000 a year, and it’s hard to get insurance.

“I’m also the three-time state of Georgia tree-climbing champion and the state of Florida champion this year as well. I competed at the international event in July and I was 16th in the world.

“I have no regrets about leaving welding. No day is ever the same, and you meet so many interesting people.”  

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