Rotorua to host international remote sensing forestry conference

22 December 2022

Rotorua and the 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 less than two years’ 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, and for the first time the conference will be in Australasia in 2024.

Henri Bailleres, Scion’s General Manager for Forests to Timber Products, says the conference will be an incredible opportunity to showcase New Zealand and Scion leading-edge forestry research using remote sensing technology.

“Scion has a strong remote sensing group with international outreach and a wide industry network within the New Zealand forestry sector. 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’s 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 Dr Watt and Dr Bailleres, submitted an application that was unanimously approved by the ForestSAT board of directors.

“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.”

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 also provide opportunities for further 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.”

Planning under way

Work now begins on organising the event, which is likely to be held in late 2024. The conference committee includes Scion’s portfolio leader Claire Stewart and key members of Scion’s Data and Geospatial intelligence group. Collectively, they will be looking to provide attendees with several technical sessions and enjoy field trips that explore world-class recreational and productive forests.

Help us make it a successful event for New Zealand and contact us if you want to be involved.