Learning in abundance at Understanding Forest Science Course

Learning in abundance at Understanding Forest Science Course

14 August 2023

Thirty-four people departed the NSW north coast, with a spring in their step inspired from a week’s learning and networking at the 2023 Gottstein Trust Understanding Forest Science course.

Held at Coffs Harbour in mid-July it featured some outstanding presenters, field trips and information.

Among the researcher community delivering sessions were Dr Angus Carnegie, who heads up the NSW Department of Primary Industries Forest Science Research team, Dr Brad Law a groundbreaking researcher of koala presence in forests, and Dr Christine Stone a renowned remote sensing forests technology expert. A leading roll call of industry people also delivered presentations – among them were Michael Ryan a forest scientist with VicForests, Braden Jenkin founder of Sylva Systems in Gippsland, Rob de Fegely AM from Margules Groome (forests consultancy), Justin Crowe from Forest Corp NSW and Andrew Hurford speaking on farm forestry.

Attendees came from Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, regional NSW, Sydney and Victoria. They work in all sorts of roles and the time they’ve worked in the sector ranges from five, ten years and more to brand new. The group included forestry operations and planning people, processing people, investment people and non-executive directors and they worked in softwood and hardwood plantations as well as natural (native) forests.

“The vast majority of attendees rated the course as excellent, which I think reflects the very high standard of presenters including those involved in the field trips,” said course convenor Helen Murray. “Most said they found multiple benefits, even those who’ve worked in the industry for years. This is interesting because things don’t stay the same and it demonstrates that Gottstein courses offer a means to gathering new information for experienced people as well as those newer to the sector.”

This was the first time the Gottstein course had been held in Coffs Harbour. “The close proximity to a fascinating range of forest activities and sites for field trips was the drawcard,” Ms. Murray said.

The Trust appreciated the effort of Forestry Corp NSW north coast-based team members making their deep expertise available for course participants to see, hear and learn on the field trips. " Justin Black was the central person we collaborated with, and he arranged such interesting field trip itineraries,” said Ms. Murray. The first field trip went to the Grafton seedling nursery then on to the bush fire and flood impacted softwood plantations north of Grafton. The second field trip saw native forests in the Coffs Harbour hinterland and also viewed a hardwood plantation.

“The use of technology in the NSW native forests is remarkable – able to electronically mark individual trees including those which are koala habitat. Many people were stunned to see such sophisticated technology in use in the forests. I personally wish the public and policy makers could see this firsthand too. It is a testimony to those working in and devoted to native forest stewardship.”

The group enjoyed learning about local Aboriginal cultural heritage with a Giingan Gumbaynggirr First Nation guide. This was on site at the eco-tourism hub established by Forest Corp NSW at Sealy Lookout, a beautiful forest location overlooking the ocean, high above Coffs Harbour at Orara Forest. The involvement of local Aboriginal people in cultural burning within north coast forests was notable.

Among guests who travelled to Coffs Harbour to join participants and speakers for the course celebration dinner were the leaders of five valued industry donors to the work of the Gottstein Trust. They were Anshul Chaudhary, CEO of ForestCorp NSW, Steve Whiteley, CEO of Sustainable Timber Tasmania, Timber NSW president Andrew Hurford, executive chair of the Hurford Group, with his wife Gaela and Rob de Fegely a founding director of Margules Groome and former president of Forestry Australia.

The dinner speaker was recently minted Gottstein Fellow Jason Ross, publisher of Wood Central, who travelled from Brisbane to share his fellowship project insights on methods available to the sector to improve its approach to communications including actively collaborating to amplify messages.

The Trust appreciated the David McPherson, Deputy Director of the NSW Department of Primary Industries joining the group for dinner. Other dinner guests attending were Jonathan Tibbitts representing Responsible Wood and three representatives of Southern Cross University - Dr Nigel Andrews, Dr Jerry Vanclay and Dr Graeme Palmer.

Chair of the Gottstein Trust Suzette Weeding joined the group throughout the week and hosted the celebration dinner. A long-standing Gottstein course presenter, she spoke about biodiversity in the natural forests and on sustainable forest certification from a forest manager perspective.

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