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Rotorua To Host International Remote Sensing Forestry Conference

Rotorua and Whakarewarewa Forest will be the backdrop to a global forestry conference that is set to attract up to 500 remote sensing specialists to the city in just over 18 months’ time.

Scion has successfully secured a bid to host ForestSAT 2024, the most prestigious international conference on the application of remote sensing technologies for forest monitoring and modelling.

Previous conferences have been held in Germany, USA, Chile, Italy, Spain, France, Sweden and Scotland. For the first time the conference will be in Australasia over five days, starting 9 September 2024.

Scion’s general manager for Forests to Timber Products, Dr Henri Bailleres, says the event will be an incredible opportunity to showcase New Zealand and Scion.

“Scion has a strong remote sensing group with international outreach and a wide industry network within the New Zealand forestry sector,” he says. “The hosting of ForestSAT in Rotorua by Scion highlights the excellence, standing and reputation of our science with our global peers, as well as showcasing Rotorua as a premier tourist destination.”

Scion principal scientist Dr Michael Watt, who leads many remote sensing areas including modelling of forest carbon capture and use of hyperspectral imagery, presented at ForestSAT 2022 in Berlin. He was impressed with the overall quality of presentations at the event and thought that New Zealand had a reasonable chance of hosting the next conference. Working closely with Tourism New Zealand, the Scion team, led by Watt and Bailleres, submitted an application that was unanimously approved by the ForestSAT board of directors.

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“What New Zealand and Scion does is unique globally,” says Watt. “Our group’s research is competing on the global scene and is attracting interest from many overseas forestry companies and research organisations.”

Global heavyweights in remote sensing for forestry are expressing their excitement about the opportunity to visit New Zealand in September 2024.

Founder of ForestSAT and former conference chair, Dr Juan Suarez, says Rotorua is one of the most important innovation hubs in forestry science worldwide.

“Hosting the conference will enable Rotorua to cement its global reputation in this area, connect academia with a forestry industry actively embracing new tools and technologies and attract new practitioners that can lead the transition to 21st century forestry.”

Canada’s research chair in Remote Sensing, Dr Nicholas Coops from the University of British Columbia, says he’s looking forward to attending ForestSAT for its stimulating talks and impressive field tours, with the added benefit of enjoying New Zealand’s scenery.

“The conference has a strong history of bringing together leading practitioners and academics working in this field from across the world. After a very successful meeting in Germany, it is fantastic to know that this event will be held in New Zealand who are leaders in the application of spatial analysis technologies to forest management.”

RotoruaNZ chief executive Andrew Wilson says confirmation that Rotorua will host the international conference is fantastic for the city.

“International conferences are a critical contributor to Rotorua’s visitor economy,” he says. “Typically, they are scheduled for the quieter shoulder seasons, providing a welcome boost to local employers as other tourism markets soften.

“In addition, delegates have a higher average spend and length of stay as they look to find novel ways to contribute to the destination and local community.”

Whakarewarewa Forest and its diverse range of exotic tree species and native undergrowth is renowned for mountain biking and walking. Uniquely, it also forms part of the largest production forest in New Zealand, which is monitored using state-of-the-art remote sensing methods.

Puruki Forest is also likely to capture the attention of conference participants. About half an hour out of Rotorua, Puruki is a nationally significant experimental forest. Data and models from Puruki underpin almost every management decision New Zealand’s forestry companies make today. As planning for the next rotation begins, there is an opportunity to design new sets of trials and create an internationally important forestry science resource.

“Allowing international delegates the chance to visit this forest could provide opportunities for co-design of the next forest,” says Bailleres. “There is the potential for Puruki to be linked in with other international experimental forests and for a digital forest of the estate to be generated so lessons and the future forest can be shared beyond New Zealand.”

Work to organise the conference, planned for 9-13 September 2024, is now underway. The conference committee includes Scion’s portfolio leader, Claire Stewart, and key members of Scion’s Data and Geospatial Intelligence group. Collectively, they will provide attendees with several technical sessions and field trips that explore world-class recreational and productive forests.

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