Five members of IFSA LC Boku started this year’s winter term in a very special way: We were volunteering on the largest global scientific conference on forests with more than 4000 participants from all over the world. The congress entitled “Sustaining Forests, Sustaining People: The Role of Research” was held from 5-11 October in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States.
The IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organizations) World Congress occurs every five years stretching back for more than a century. So really a unique opportunity for us Boku students. And we were not the only ones: over 700 students were included in the total number of participants.
Due to the long going fruitful partnership between IUFRO and IFSA we were not only able to participate but rather working actively on this event (registration, information booth maintenance…). Especially the field trips were an incredible enrichment, because we were assisting employees of the U.S. Forest Service guiding the congress participants through Utah’s forests and astonishing National Parks. Former IUFRO President Niels Koch who passed his duty on to Michael Wingfield during the IUFRO World Congress used every possible moment on stage to emphasize the relationship between our associations which a gathering of IFSA`s responded immediately with a big hand. Due the presence of students many grave parts of the congress became more fun these days.
As part of the Congress Exposition Hall IFSA had its own booth which became a focal point for the connection of former and future IFSA members and students from all over the world. Furthermore a special networking event for students was organized as well an exclusive networking evening to enhance the partnership of IUFRO and IFSA. Within this ceremonial scope we had the chance to raise our nosy and nagging questions to the heads of several IUFRO divisions (Silviculture, Forest Health, Forest Policy and Economics…).
The Congress Scientific Committee chaired by Dr. John Parrotta has developed an attractive scientific program based on 3,900 received abstracts – the highest number ever received to an IUFRO World Congress. The program comprises 5 plenary sessions, 19 sub-plenary sessions and about 170 technical sessions with a total of about 1,200 oral presentations and 1,200 posters on display. We of course tried to attend as much presentations as possible. Just to give you an idea of the scientific overload in our soon smoking brains.
The 24th Congress was only the second time in IUFRO’s history that the United States has hosted this world’s largest international gathering of forest researchers and practitioners. The 2014 International Union of Forest Research Organizations World Congress combined with the Society of American Foresters’ 94th Annual Convention and the Canadian Institute of Forestry’s Annual Meeting was one of the largest collection of leading forestland managers, scientists, and decision makers in one location.
Many Scientists from our Alma Mater Viridis (Boku Vienna) and from the BFW (Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape) were also ever-present with numerous talks during the Congress. Hence it was really delightful for us to discover daily well known faces in the crowd.
The Congress started with a bang on 6 October as keynote speaker Robert Bonnie laid out graphic statistics on the impact of climate change on American forests. The USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment said that 47 million acres (~ 200 000 km²) are being laid to waste by bark beetles and that the fire season is an astounding 60-80 days longer than it was in the past.
Apart from the forestal focus areas we had still enough time to face up with cultural aspects of Utah and experience Salt Lake City the capital of Mormons and former Olympic City. Especially the contact with First Nations and their appreciation in the course of this congress proved to be really awesome. And hell yeah, we visited Yellowstone National Park just a few days before the start of the Congress and hopefully centuries before it`s next eruption.
The congress enabled us to catch a glimpse on scientific life and forged a fantastic bridge from the tight forest knit culture of First Nations to NASA`s latest remote sensing methods. Thus we sincerely thank the Department of forest and soil sciences and the BFW for their support which immensely facilitated our appearance on the Congress.
The next XXV. IUFRO World Congress shall take place in Curitiba, Brazil, in October 2019.