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Sky’s the limit for up-and coming foresters

30 November 2023
If ForestTECH 2023 is anything to go by, the future of forestry is bright. Three forestry students presented at the conference this week, marking the end of a student competition, organised by Scion and supported by Tools for Foresters.

The inaugural competition, funded by the Precision Silviculture Programme, led by Forest Growers Research through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Fund, aimed to address the lack of standard operational procedures for using UAVs to collect tree survival data.

As part of the competition, Toi Ohomai forestry students, Scion and Forest Protection Services staff captured data from two sites using three methods of UAV survival assessment. Three students analysed collection method costs, accuracy and ease of use and were tasked with writing a report, a standard operational procedure (SOP) and making a presentation about one of the collection methods. The report and SOP will be shared with industry through the Forest Growers Research and Tools For Foresters websites.

The three students were University of Canterbury Bachelor of Forestry Science student Blake Singleton and Toi Ohomai Forest Management Diploma students Jake Emmens and Whanarua Edmonds. They looked at using multispectral orthoplotting, RGB orthoplotting, and 100% site captures with high-resolution imagery respectively.

Whanarua Edmonds was named the winner and given the DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise care bundle valued at $7000. Edmonds said he descends from a long line of bushmen with him being the fifth generation to work in the forest industry. While the journey was challenging, he says he is stoked and grateful to take the win. “I guess you could say it’s in the blood. I’ve chosen to build on their hard work and take it to the next level with a different approach to the industry.”

Scion Geospatial Scientist Robin Hartley says the idea for a student competition arose at ForestTECH in Melbourne last year and industry had been hugely supportive with Ferntech donating the prize, Manulife Forest Management (NZ) Ltd providing the surveying sites and Indufor providing their seedling detection analysis services free of charge. Members of the TFF committee and Scion scientists also donated time to grade student outputs and help mentor the students.

Hartley said it was important to foster the next generation as forestry required outside the box thinking. He said the students all had different and refreshing approaches and he hoped to host the competition again.

Claire Stewart, who runs the Forest Growers Research Precision Silviculture programme, said the competition fed into the Tools for Foresters goal of building skills from the ground up. “Working with the students is key to getting the workforce that we need for tomorrow. The quality of their work has been so good we look forward to seeing how we can continue this work.”

Photo: FIEA. L-R, Robin Hartley, Jake Emmens, Blake Singleton, Whanarua Edmonds

Source: Scion

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