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Above: Official IFSA delegation at the XXV  IUFRO World Congress, © Morne Booij-Liewes, IUFRO

Building Early Science Skills - Pre-Congress Training

Khalil Walji & Ashley Leto

The XXV IUFRO World Congress provided a perfect opportunity to bring together young and budding forest researchers with accomplished and senior scientists within the IUFRO Network.  In this light, IFSA and the Joint IUFRO-IFSA Task Force on Forest education (JTF) organized a full day of training titled “Building Early Science Skills” for students and early career professionals. This training featured 3 key focus areas, which were selected to present a broad range of important skills for early career scientists: Forest Entrepreneurship (contemporary), Scientific Publishing (conventional), and Peer-to-Peer Networking (soft/social). The Global Outlook on Forest Education (GOFE) studies conducted by the JTF from 2016-2019 have shown that soft skills within the natural science and forest education sphere are often lacking. The training workshop aimed to bridge this gap by developing a mixed training as well as encouraging dynamic and interactive sessions which help to develop and nurture these attributes, which are considered vital in the modern workplace. The training allowed for peer-to-peer discussion, the development and the expansion of networks, and helped to build confidence in young scientists - before beginning what could be seen as intimidating and isolating week at the largest scientific forestry conference in the world - by providing a supportive network where students feel connected to and empowered by their peers and colleagues.

The event trained 33 self identified young scientists from 21 different countries, the majority of whom (55%) were from South America/the Latin American region, an area IFSA is currently working to foster connection with. Participants got the chance to learn IUFRO Senior Scientists and experts from around the world in an informal workshop environment where they were encouraged to ask questions and connect with one another. At the end, participants expressed a marked improvement in confidence in general skills (approaching peers, colleagues, and speaking in groups) as well as technical skills such as scientific publishing and knowledge on forest entrepreneurship.  Perhaps more importantly, many participants expressed the training was a great way to expand their network to international scope and meet peers in their fields, as well as provide the space and opportunity to practice their English.

Throughout the Congress attendees were able expand these connections with one another, as well as with IFSA, by sharing information, joining further IFSA events as well as informal networking opportunities. The collaboration between IFSA and IUFRO also enabled students to engage with working professionals in a structured environment which can be crucial to a young scientist.  Trainings such as this will continue to be a part of IFSA engagement at IUFRO and other partner events in hopes of continuing to provide opportunities for growth and skills development for our membership, while gaining friendships and networks that will last a lifetime.
Read the Pre-Congress Training Impact Report

Showcasing student research

Sarah Dickson-Hoyle

From three minute research pitches and 15-people panel discussions to honouring student award winners, the XXV IUFRO World Congress offered multiple opportunities to showcase innovation and excellence in student research.

In addition to the many student and early career scientist presentations featured throughout the core technical sessions, IFSA - in collaboration with the Congress Scientific Committee coordinated two “Student Incubator” events. In these, students were posed the challenge of presenting their research in a ‘3 minute thesis’ format of one slide, three minutes to present.  Presentations were grouped into thematic blocks (each of 3-4 presentations), grouping such as “forests and climate change”, “innovative approaches to plantation management” and “forest ecology and ecophysiology”. After each block, an interdisciplinary panel of senior scientists led a round of questioning, prompting students to consider key questions relating to methodological challenges, future research directions and the broader application or implications of their work. This interactive and dynamic session format offered greater opportunities for both presenters and audience alike to discuss research in greater depth and to spark engaging discussions. 

Participants of the Pre-Congress Training Day

Another highlight of the student research program was the awarding of the IUFRO Student Award winners at a special sub-plenary on Friday 4th October. The plenary was opened by Professor Suzanne Simard from UBC’s Faculty of Forestry, who shared her story of progressing from an early career forester to a leading forest scientist. Her impactful speech featured the use of art, imagery and analogy using a spiral to represent a journey of progress and reflection, and ended with a call for young scientists to consider their roles and responsibilities for translating their research into action. Professor John Innes, Chair of the awards committee, then presented the nine IUFRO Outstanding Doctoral Awards and six IUFRO Student Awards for Excellence in Forest Sciences to the 15 award winners. This presentation was followed by an engaging panel discussion, moderated by IFSA student Sarah Dickson-Hoyle, in which winners shared insights and experiences from conducting graduate research, and offered advice to students and senior scientists alike as to how to succeed, support one another, and ensure our research has meaningful impact beyond the lab or research community to reach broader society actors and decision makers. 

Student award winners of Outstanding Doctoral Award and the  IUFRO Student Award for Excellence in Forest Science. © Morne Booij-Liewes, IUFRO

Above: IFSA delegation member Thembela Lulane volunteering during the IUFRO Exhibition

Volunteering and Mentorship

Thembela Lulane and Phahledi Doctor Tshego

Global and international forestry events can be an important part of student development in order to better understand global challenges as well as contextualize local and regional perspectives in the forestry sector. Although important, these events can come at a significant cost to participants and when fees cannot be waived, one avenue to ensure participation is to volunteer with the congress organizing committee.  The 2019 IUFRO World Congress offered us a great volunteering opportunity which provided benefits to the congress but also to us. Although it can be difficult to find time to volunteer, the experience you get is priceless. As a volunteer you are assigned to help people during the official program and offer tactical support, but in the end you will surely get more than you give having the chance to interact with professionals from different educational backgrounds on a daily basis. 

Volunteering is a two-way street; spending your time helping people  improves your communication skills, it also helps you to make new friends and expand your network. You have the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, problem solving, communication, project planning, task management and organisation. Some of these skills are not always those we get exposed to in the content of our educational curriculum. The experience also helps you to explore other skills of interest, by allowing you to sit it on and listen to thematic areas you may never be exposed to or experience new tasks. Imagine a forester doing work of sound engineer, journalist or photographer - these skills can be useful after the event and could even spark an interest in a nascent skill you may have never considered. 


Beyond skills, If you are someone looking to find a mentor for your post graduate programme, volunteering is a way for you to easily approach professors, to begin discussing opportunities and expressing an interest in their work or lab. Volunteering at a global event gives you the opportunity to meet colleagues with different experiences from all over the world. You get the opportunity to draw from a large pool of experts. Simply, the fact that you are already part of the volunteering team automatically attracts more people towards you.  More people will be willing to talk to you and potentially spark a discussion which could also lead to collaboration in the future.  

Above: Video 5 focused on future opportunities for young forestry professionals

Harnessing the power of media: Sharing forest stories

Manon Davies and Vera Knill

As part of the IFSA delegation attending the IUFRO World Congress in Curitiba, we formed a digital media team and created daily videos to share impressions of the global scientific event. This way, we supported the IUFRO communications team in stressing the importance of contemporary and hot topics in forestry research. Our job was to present the conference in an easily digestible and relatable manner, breaking the stereotypical image of a serious scientific conference and interpreting dense results into fun and energetic videos. Through interviewing younger participants, making short and upbeat videos, we hoped to highlight the full range of opportunities a global conference contains, hopefully convincing many that conferences are  not only work, but a lot of fun!

To learn and share topics of interest to youth and young forestry professionals, we aimed to build a common thread in each daily video, selecting a single topic per day and thrusting it into the spotlight. Some topics included: forests and climate change, the role of women in forestry, services provided by forests for people and  future opportunities for young forestry professionals. We also highlighted glimpses of the astonishing Curitiba surroundings which we visited during different congress field-trips. These trips provided delegates and students an opportunity to learn more about the city’s parks, urban areas, and production systems such as reforestation or agroforestry and many other appealing topics.

Creating daily videos enabled us to interview keynote speakers and other IUFRO delegates, opening an opportunity for discussion and the exchange of ideas. We found it very exciting to engage and interact with all IUFRO delegates through this unique approach, getting to know different viewpoints and networking with forestry professionals and students from all over the world.

Check out the videos from each day below: 

Day 1: Forests and Climate Change 

Day 2: Women in Forestry 

Day 3: Forests and People 

Day 4: IUFRO 2019 Congress Tours 

Day 5: Future opportunities for students in Forestry 

Below: Women researchers in forest sciences featured in Day 2

Green Jobs and the future of Forest Employment

Juliet Achieng and Lisa Prior

Among the hundreds of sessions that took place during the epic IUFRO Congress in Curitiba was the sub-plenary session organized by IFSA together with the EFI-IFSA-IUFRO project team. Under the title “Green jobs and the future of employment” the session brought together students, early and mid-career scientists among others to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with 'Green Jobs' and changes in employment in the forest sector.  

Selected IFSA students from the audience opened the session by sharing their concerns on this topic by presenting results from over 10 World Café discussions held during the International Day of Forests 2019. The session was moderated by Lisa Prior from the EFI-IFSA-IUFRO project. Before the event, audience members were also asked to fill out a pre event survey (3 questions) to share their opinions on the future of forest sector employment as well as share their perceptions on green jobs. The audience gave very interesting insights as shown below:

Audience perceptions on the future of green jobs 

Three short presentations kicked off the sub plenary, beginning with Juliet Achieng from the EFI & IFSA,  she presented results from a literature review on forest sector employment, green jobs and forest education. Mr. Esthevan Gasparoto, the Chief Executive Officer of Treevia, followed and presented on  innovative and advanced monitoring systems for forest businesses, and finally Dr. Mónica Gabay from National University of General San Martin shed some light on the role of green jobs in equality and inclusion and qualities and skills needed for green jobs. 

The session was well attended and had active crowd participation highlighting the importance and relevance of the topic, which has become an important topic of discussion at national, regional and global scales. The expectations of a foresters mandate is rapidly changing and so are the educational need to adapt. Research on this topics should help employers to stay ahead of the curve, adapt their workforce and investments beforehand in anticipation of these changes.

IFSA Subplenary on Green Jobs, Session in progress: © Morne Booij-Liewes, IUFRO

There was no better way to end the session than awarding the winner of the Best Practices in Forest Education Competition 2019. The competition was organized by the JTF to raise awareness and promote knowledge exchange. IUFRO’s outgoing president Professor. Mike Wingfield  was very gracious to present the awards to the two winners: “FOREST 101” programme from the Republic of Korea, was awarded for the Primary- Secondary school category which focused on stimulating the interests and creativity in nature and forests of at risk teenagers, and “The Asia Pacific Forest Education Coordination Mechanism (AP-FECM)” was awarded in the Tertiary Category, for their initiative which featured among other elements, a Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) to increase accessibility of  forest education in Asia Pacific region with a focus on tropical forests. Professor Wingfield emphasized the need for such initiatives which provide unrivaled platforms for showcasing innovation, creativity and offer valuable lessons which can be emulated by others.

Winners of the Best Practices in Forest Education Competition,  2019 © Morne Booij-Liewes, IUFRO

Above: IFSA President, IFSA Liaison Officer to IUFRO and the newly appointed IUFRO President share a moment at the closing reception

IFSA and IUFRO; a strong partnership for the future
The signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding

Amos Amanubo and Volodymyr Kravets

The partnership between IUFRO & IFSA can only be described as an outstanding and natural fit, having stood the test of time since the first MoU was signed in 2002. The IUFRO World Congress was  one of the several opportunities that demonstrated this credible and progressive bond and highlighted the prospects and opportunities that exist for the two partners to shape the future of forestry collaboratively.

Prior to the beginning of the world congress, the IFSA President, Amanubo Amos and IUFRO Liaison Officer of IFSA, Volodymyr Kravets were invited to participate in the 58th IUFRO Enlarged board meeting (EBM). This was a highly administrative meeting involving  discussions on the IUFRO Strategy, Divisions reports and operation of the IUFRO organization. Beyond the learning experience, was the delivery of a statement on the IUFRO-IFSA partnership by the President of IFSA which highlighted some of the joint achievements of the collaboration as well as acknowledgment of the fundamental role both partners play in achieving their mandates and strategic objectives in their respective scopes of operation. An important achievement of the event was the unanimous recommendation to the IUFRO Council by members of the EBM for IFSA to become a permanent observer on the IUFRO Board - a significant step in strengthening the partnership. 

During the World Congress, the IFSA President was also invited to give a speech at the opening ceremony, further highlighting the strong relationship, as much needed for intergenerational knowledge transfer to guarantee a sustainable future in the world of forestry sciences. Furthermore, the IFSA leadership had the honour to renew the MOU and  to secure the future of the partnership, hence opening up new opportunities for students and members of IFSA. 

This new MoU aims to build off of the ongoing collaboration which includes a minimum of 1 yearly internship position offered to IFSA students at the IUFRO Headquarters, the Joint IUFRO-IFSA Task Force on Forest Education, the EFI-IFSA-IUFRO Green Jobs project as well as collaboration at both IUFRO organized and IFSA organized meetings throughout the years. These speak to a mutually beneficial, highly productive and healthy relationship which will continue to grow in the future.  The IFSA-IUFRO relationship; a partnership you can only admire!

Below: FSA and IUFRO Sign a new Memorandum of Understanding,  reaffirming one of IFSA’s strongest ties and ensuring collaboration for  years to come.

Top Left: Students oral presentations were featured throughout technical sessions and during two IFSA led Incubator sessions. Top Right: Students were able to give digital poster presentations with the help of new and innovative presentation totems.

Experiencing the Congress as a young forestry researcher 

Seongeun Lee, Seongmin Shin

The week-long scientific conference had more than two thousand researchers gathered together to share new and cutting edge research in their respective subjects. Distinguished and renowned scholars were present from all over the world, and students were able to attend sessions and get valuable insights and new information about interesting research as well as on  subjects which are dealt with in the classroom. Most importantly the congress allowed us an opportunity to think and reflect about our future careers as researchers and think about various options for postgraduate study topics, employment opportunities and to talk directly with faculty and professors who work in our areas of interest. 

The Congress also provided the chance for young researchers to give oral and poster presentation, ensuring students were not just passive participants.  A number of young foresters stepped onto the stage. Although this can be a nerve wracking experience it was a meaningful chance for the young researchers to develop their abilities and gain valuable practice among peers and colleagues. Moreover, questions and comments from the floor brought out supplementary points and essential ideas to improve the studies. After the presentations, there was a significant opportunity to discuss not only topics with specialists but also opportunities for discussions of future collaborations which is crucial for young scientists. Overall,  attending an event like this was an opportunity to showcase your own work, listen to the work of others, network, and most importantly plan and reflect on your own future goals and opportunities. The Congress really highlighted that the world of forestry is immensely diverse and the question was not “what can I do?” but instead “ what will I choose?” - the opportunities are immense and the future of forestry careers is bright.  

Beyond the Science: The IUFRO Exhibition Centre

Maximilian Schubert and Carmen Monges

Scientific presentations and exchanges were the key feature of the world Congress offering an excellent opportunity to acquire new knowledge on a whole spectrum of forest science topics, but IUFRO and the local organizing committee managed to push it well beyond that. The outstanding exhibition, over 1150m², featuring over 30 companies, networks and institutions provided critical insights into traditions, innovations and technology in forestry, showcasing the way forward in the future landscape management.

The diversity of stakeholders, ideas and products on display were immediately a highlight of the event,  quickly becoming a main space for discovery, to meet and interact with people, and to be inspired. The exhibition astonished through its colorful set-up, clear structure, as well as the use of modern technology.

Among the exhibitors were IUFRO 2024 Hosts, Sweden, who provided hands-on training with a harvester simulator based on virtual reality. Here, delegates could demonstrate their skills in working with forests in an unusual practical manner, often resulting in the urge to beat the previous score. Another impressive  use of such technology was provided by Brazil, as host country in their booth, utilizing augmented reality to present novel intercropping systems in agroforestry, and inviting participants to explore the various systems with the use of 3D goggles and a physical space to explore. 

Hosts of the 2024 IUFRO World Congress had a technology filled exhibition featuring a virtual reality harvester which was a popular learning experience. 

Furthermore, exhibitors highlighted wood as an integral part of traditional and contemporary craftsmanship. While the International Wood Cultural Society (IWCS) performed impressive live crafting and even assembled instruments and ornaments on the site, other companies presented modern furniture combining natural elements such as tree trunks with modern materials and usage. While wood played an obvious central role at the exhibition, also non-timber forest products were on display. Indigenous societies from across Brazil brought self-made products, from chocolate to jelly and from jewelry to clothing, making livelihoods in forests a central topic among the delegates. Thanks to their traditional painting sessions, the food and drink tastings as well as the wonderful people themselves, this booth was a favourite. 

With all this diversity,  you can be sure that IFSA did not miss the opportunity to share our strengths, displaying our  global initiatives, interesting shirts and variety of opportunities for student engagement. The booth was featured right next to the indigenous people’s booth, and our delegates informed participants about the largest forestry students’ network in the world. Among other things, IFSA emphasized its countless sessions throughout the week, the global initiatives and its joint research projects. But most of all, we connected to even more international forestry students, to enlarge the network and extend the IFSA family further. 

A happy IFSA delegation at the IFSA booth excited to share the benefits of membership with conference participants.
Copyright © 2019 International Forestry Students' Association, All rights reserved.

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