‘Discovery Week' with the International Forestry Student Association in South Korea

29 July 2019

Written by Yulia Cuthbertson (Master of Environment student)

It is always intriguing to find out how your neighbour performs, isn’t it? When you are a student, and your curiosity is at its peak, then it’s inspiring to meet with one of a kind and be able to investigate together. Furthermore, when students have a chance to meet and talk through the topics they are interested in, it is also an opportunity to exchange gained experience and knowledge. Hence, IFSA APRM – Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting for International Forestry Student Association members in South Korea last June was a ‘discovery week’. Forestry and environment students were exposed to global trends and insights that only personal communication can provide. I would list only a couple of other advantages that benefitted participants of APRM. They included drawing from the experience of others; comparing, for instance, burning practices or silvicultural methods, and learning about results of the various researches (as well as getting inspiration for new investigations).

APRM for me personally was a unique chance that (apart from the benefits, mentioned above) allowed to experience new perspectives on forestry. Also, it was an opportunity to connect the real-life issues with what I have previously learnt at Fenner. For example, studying Green Growth in South Korea, we had been exposed to the problem of tidal-flat wetlands and migratory birds that suffer from climate change and industrialisation. So, while staying in Daejeon where Chungnam National University (CNU) is located, we were lucky to visit Ecorium that belongs to the National Institute of Ecology. The whole complex of educational centre Ecorium had been built on reclamation lands that the government was previously planning to develop. Thus, APRM delegates had a chance to explore a few projects that the Institute is researching. First of all, a large part of Ecorium is allocated for a few ecosystems that are contained in massive greenhouses. For instance, Polar, Mediterranean, Tropical biomes and others have been arranged there, so scientists and students hold their onsite experiments. The areas are also open to the public, and you can often meet kids or tourists there. There is also a museum, an outdoor playground, and a few picturesque walks on the premises. Secondly, the Institute researches restoration of mudflats and migratory areas of the Yellow Sea that are located on East Asian-Australian Flyway and protected under Ramsar Convention.

During our lectures in CNU, Professor Byung Bae Park talked about his research areas. They are mainly focused on silvicultural practices, mimicking the progress of natural forests; optimal fertilisation and nutrient combinations within plantations; rehabilitation of lands by planting forests in polluted territories, and climate change. Hence, Ecorium, as an experimental base, holds a few outdoor projects that examine the impact of climate change on particular forest ecosystems. Scientists study changes in the CO2 content of soil and air, canopy and foliage changes, temperature, humidity levels. South Korea is very green, and, according to the Professor, forests cover 64% of the country. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of the changes that happen in forests. Also, the country went through dramatic changes in growing stock – from 6 m3 in 1953 to 126 m3 in 2011. Forests are appreciated and develop in a few dimensions. Apart from traditional plantations and timber industry, forests are used in coastal disaster prevention program and healing tourism.

Within APRM, students had a chance to present their researches. It was fascinating to find out what drive others in their studies and to ask questions. Fire and burning practices were the key topics that young researchers from Australia and South Korea focused on. Sustainability was another popular focal point from students of Indonesia and the Philippines. Also, forest protection and biodiversity conservation were targeted in their studies by students from the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. Moreover, the delegates shared their programs and events that they deliver to communities. In my thinking, it was one of the most valuable pieces of experience within the whole APRM. For example, IFSA at the Philippines talked about its Mangroves Planting project; Indonesia focused on educational programs and Healthy Trees project; South Korea mentioned tree planting and gardening events; our (ANU) delegates communicated their experience related to the past Networking Night and tree planting events. Lastly, a centre-piece of the whole Meeting was the Cultural Night, where students had an opportunity to talk about their countries and cultures.

A few questions arose during the APRM in South Korea. For instance, academics of CNU were concerned about how to attract more young scientists in forest research. Also, IFSA representatives from the Asia-Pacific region were unsure how to seek for funds to be able to continue their projects and participate in regional and international meetings that IFSA organises. Nevertheless, APRM allowed getting a variety of insights into forestry. It had been a fantastic opportunity to meet likeminded people that will shape the nearest future of forestry and forestry research. It was fascinating to find out how the South Korean government, large private companies and universities are keen to support the local IFSA initiatives. Last but not least, it was exciting to get some exposure to South Korean culture. Similarly, it was precious to experience remarkable hospitality that the South Korean IFSA team and the local people surrounded every single participant of APRM. Thank you!

IFSA at ANU delegates (Jiayi Chew, Karen Khoo and Yulia Cuthbertson) are supported by PARSA Student Extracurricular Enrichment Fund (SEEF) and ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.