Thursday, October 21, 2010

Forestry at the Army Corps of Engineers

Penn State Mont Alto alum Will Harlon spoke to the freshman forest technician students on careers in the US Army Corps of Engineers. Will, who is a forester at the John H. Kerr Reservoir and Dam in the Wilmington District, described the history of the Corps and the natural resources parts of its current mission, which includes: flood damage prevention, hydropower generation, recreation, shoreline management, fish and wildlife management, southern pine bark beetle remediation, and timber management work on military bases.

Will gave the students information about career opportunities with the Corps and how best to prepare themselves for successful careers. Many thanks to Will and his family for visiting Mont Alto during their vacation!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Forest Tech Developments

Sponsored by Landmark Systems, the Forest Technology Users Conference conference on October 13 and 14, highlighted new developments in hardware and software for forest inventories and management. Following is a summary of the presentations.Craig Houghton and I (Peter Linehan) were looking for state of the art solutions that could be added to the Forest Technology program at Mont Alto.

Carl Hauser of the Indiana DNR described the management challenges for the state forests required for the preservation of the Indiana bat. Extreme care is nneded when planning timber harvesting to not disturb the bats' winter hibernaculums. A certain number of large hardwood trees have to be reserved from harvest as the female bats like to raise their young under the bard of shagbark hickory and similar trees. Indiana DNR has modified their forest inventory software (T-Cruise) to record the required information that is needed to make good management decisions.

Haglof of Sweden manufactures precision forest measuring instruments, such as calipers and clinometers. Patrick Lidstrom described some of their recent products. The main trend is to add on board computing and geolocating capabilities to their tools. This development can increase productivity and accuracy in inventory work. My favorite new tool was a one-armed optical caliper that uses light beams to find the edge of a tree.

Landmark System's Mike Berzinis described new spatial analysis tools they have developed to facilitate forestry analysis in ArcGIS. The toolbar, SilvaAssist, provides a handy grid layout tool, Excel reports, and other forest inventory tools.

Remsoft is a linear programming tool to model forest management options based on growth models, financial conditions and many other management constraints. The system works with a number of other mapping tools and management software. They have done a good job of moving modeling from the drudgery of setting up the mathematical model.

The State of Michigan has a nearly 4 million acre state forest system, which must be one of the largest in the county. Cory Luoto and Dan Heckman, of the Michigan DNRE, described the implementation of IFMAP (Integrated Forest Management Monitoring Assessment and Planning) system.  Using a centralized mapping and database system, IFMAP counts on field foresters to inventory and monitor the forests in their area, while allowing public transparency of all management actions. Moving from a paper-based system to a totally electronic system is still an ongoing process. More of the foresters are seeing the advantage of using GPS data loggers in their work.

Terry Porter, of ForestTech Resource Solutions, described tests of three models of mapping grade GPS receivers that he carried out at the University of Georgia's Whitehall Forest GPS Test Site (page has broken links). The test results showed the inherently variability that is routinely encountered with all GPS receivers, even when working within design specifications. Still, on the worst day a good GPS is far better than traditional methods of locating items in the forest.

The developer of the T-Cruise forest inventory system, Dr. Tom Matney of Mississippi State University, described a variety of software tools available for foresters to use in planning and carrying out forest inventories. Many of the options are free and available online. Click here for links to some of these resources.

Blue Ox is a new timber transportation monitoring and planning tool developed by Landmark Systems and Trimble. Rick Davis described the research that went into the development of the system by attaching GPS monitoring devices to logging trucks to find out how the trucks were really used. The system can help a forest products company save money by better deploying and using their truck fleet to get wood from the forest to the mill.

Brooks McKee of Trimble Forest Automation presented an overview of the SOLO Forest and SOLO 360 tools for GIS planning and analysis of forest inventory data. Designed to work on Trimble GPS tools and work with ArcGIS, the systems offer an interesting solution.

The conference concluded with a panel discussion with all the presenters answering questions. We certainly left the meeting with a lot of ideas for new technologies to add to the forestry courses at Mont Alto!

Many thanks to the conference sponsors. We are looking forward to future meetings. Also, the Clifty Inn in the Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana is a great place to hold a meeting. Click here for pictures outside the inn, around the park, and in Madison.