Forest Research Centre activities
Inaugural International Workshop
SCPS hosted the inaugural international Corymbia (spotted gum) genome workshop 13 to 15th October 2015, convened by Merv Shepherd. This was very successful with 12 Australian and international scientists collaborating on the development of a draft genome for Corymbia. Intensive discussions were held at Invercauld House, with a very informatics local field trip taking in natural stands and plantations along with a tour of Hurford's mill at Kyogle.
In November 2015, a class of 7 undergraduates and masters students took to the road in Victoria to tour industrial sites as part of their unit in Product Development and Marketing. The tour was a learning experience of enormous value, made possible by the generosity of hosts giving time and free access to infrastructure and technology.
The tour had everything from the latest quality sensing and drying technology at AKD softwoods at Colac; farm scale production of speciality sawn wood at Rowen Reid's farm, Bambarra; viewing the huge range of expensive domestic and imported decorative timbers at Britton Timbers, impressive value adding and marketing strategies of at Australian Sustainable Hardwoods at Heyfield; and cable logging with Hancock Victoria Plantations (declared by one student as breathtaking).
The group dropped into Forest Tech, a conference on technologies deployed in forest and land management. There, we were able to talk to Chris Lafferty of Forest and Wood Products Australia, whose comprehensive knowledge of products and markets impressed all present. Cross Laminated Timber and the impending extension of wood structures to 5 stories dominated. At Chris's suggestion the group visited the Docklands Library, where we could see the building system ourselves.
The mix of people in the student group was a highlight (3 internationals,4 domestics; 2 females, 5 males; 6 students from Forest Science, 1 student of Environmental Science and Management). The recurring themes of discussion everywhere were social license, technology, safety and good people. The student discussion demonstrated informed critical analysis from many different viewpoints. The big question posed and debated was: "is it a better approach to securing the existence of forested landscapes by attributing value that is competitive in the market, or by adopting punitive administrative processes?"
Malekae Vele (pictured) stands by a log harvested from his village plantation (background) at Sara on the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. An FRC research team has been in Vanuatu for 6 years working with land holders, initially on management of plantation grown Whitewood (Endospermum medulosum), and now on products and markets. The FRC team is expecting a productive completion of this ACIAR funded project during 2016. The project will have produced yield and costs/benefit data across a wide range of management, reported soil nutrition impacts, conducted a detailed market opportunity analysis and produced specifications for processing and of performance.
Whitewood grown in plantations produces round wood fencing at age 6 years that can be successfully, preservative treated by vacuum and pressure processes. Saw logs or building poles can be recovered at age 13 depending on management and veneer and clear saw logs can be recovered after 20 to 25 years. The species is resilient in cyclonic conditions and grows well across a large area of land identified by survey to be suitable.
The highlight of this project will have been working with enthusiastic entrepreneurs like Malekae Vele, who is generous with his appreciation of receiving income from his 13 year old forest.
NSW Forest Industry Task Force
The NSW Forest Industries Taskforce was established in March 2012 to identify and report on key strategic issues and opportunities for the NSW forestry sector. The Taskforce is chaired by The Hon Rick Colless MLC, and comprises 15 members including forest industry leaders, forestry professionals, forest contractors and major wood processors.
The visitors were presented work of the FRC on the benefits of medium scale biomass to electricity generation using simple technologies; and light weight composites of long strand particles of hardwood, wood flower and adhesive.
A current area of growing interest for the task force is the recovery of energy and chemicals from wood residues, a potential end use for plantation thinning. The work at SCU on gasification of wood and liquid fuel production attracted considerable discussion. The task force proceeded to DPI Wollongbar following the visit to SCU and were briefed in "bio chemical" production of ethanol and other products from wood and many other forms of biomass.
Regional Universities Network (RUN) Vietnam
In November 2015 Jerry Vanclay and Doland Nichols of SCU Forest Research Centre, Heidi Zimmer of Federation University and Jack Baynes of University of the Sunshine Coast, spent two weeks in Vietnam. Their host was Dr Tran Lam Dong, a recent forestry graduate of the University of Tasmania and a leader in the Silviculture Research Institute of the Vietnamese Academy of Forest Sciences (VAFS). The group visited VAFS headquarters in Hanoi, from which some 13 institutes are supervised throughout the length of the country. They also visited Vietnam Forestry University, the major forestry university in Vietnam.
The delegation was representing the Regional Universities Network, which sponsored the trip. This is a group of seven regional Australian institutions. Our main goal was to explore possibilities for research collaboration with Vietnamese colleagues and to promote attendance at RUN universities by Vietnamese students.
In the field we visited the northwest of the country, where there is an ongoing problem of extensive deforestation in steep mountains, the forest most often being replaced with maize grown for feedlot cattle. Some agroforestry projects have been implemented in the region but there appears to be scope for more action to halt soil erosion and promote more sustainable agricultural systems.
We moved to the south and travelled out from Ho Chi Minh City (Sai Gon) to Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve and Cat Thien National Park. A recent Masters graduate of SCU, Ms Do Thi Ha, will be returning soon to do a PhD with us, with her field work in native forests and mixed-species plantations in these areas.
In January 2015 Doland Nichols took a group of ten students on a two-week trip around Hue, in the centre of Vietnam. This was with a Commonwealth program called AsiaBound. More trips in the future should be possible under a similar newer program, the Colombo Plan.