Australian Forests and Timber

VR technology inspiring new generation of foresters

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Virtual Reality technology is being used as a tool to attract the next generation of foresters to the Green Triangle.

New two-minute career snapshots of foresters and ecologists working in the field have been filmed using innovative 360-degree cameras in recent weeks, creating immersive learning experience­s that will soon be shared in high school classrooms across Australia.

The footage allows students to step into a VR world, walking through the estate alongside featured foresters, Courtney Pink of SFM (Sustainabl­e Forest Management) and Jack Carter from ABP (Australia Bluegum Plantation), to learn about a day in their working life.

The Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub in partnershi­p with ForestLear­ning, the country’s peak forest and wood product education portal, produced the latest 360-degree video experience­s to highlight the variety of career pathways and diverse work tasks within the forestry field.

This ForestVR technology debuted nationally in classrooms last year with a catalogue of footage taking students on virtual excursion to difficult to access locations highlighti­ng forest and timber processing in the region.

The free experience­s, which were produced via a productive partnershi­p with peak teacher associatio­n groups and industry, can be accessed using digital and cardboard VR headsets, iPads, laptaps or smart boards for whole of class activities, making it accessible for classroom environmen­ts.

Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub chair Ian McDonnell said it was hoped the promotion would inspire a new generation of foresters to the field, highlighti­ng the sustainabl­e and diverse nature of the work.

“The industry is faced with a national shortage of foresters, with local growers often forced to look globally to recruit staff,” Mr McDonnell said.

“Forestry provides a longterm secure career path for people who are interested in building their scientific and business expertise, are data and technology driven and enjoy working outdoors.

“Demand for these roles is going to grow in the future as we look to expand the forestry estate and gain more timber from existing plantation­s to meet growing domestic and global demand. The next generation, who have excellent technology skills, are going to be pivotal in achieving our strategic vision.”

Ms Pink, a regional forester based in Mount Gambier who studied a Bachelor of Forest Science and Management at Southern Cross University, said her love of nature and being outdoors inspired her career path.

“Forestry provides a lot of freedom. I love being able to work freely indoors or outdoors,” she said.

“We have peak intense periods of operations and other times we get to breathe in the fresh air that we create by growing trees. I love that its strategic and all about problem solving - plus I get to play with some cool toys like helicopter­s, drones and heavy machinery.”

A Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in zoology and a sub-major in Spanish, led Jack Carter to his environmen­tal forester position at ABP, based in Hamilton. He started working as a silvicultu­ral assistant as an allrounder undertakin­g survival counts, inventory and soil collection before being promoted to his current position.

Mr Carter’s role includes habitat monitoring and conservati­on management, revegetati­on and restoratio­n works, protecting threatened species and their habitats, certificat­ion assessment­s and firefighti­ng.

“I work to make sure that the industry remains sustainabl­e and provides a positive return for both the environmen­t and the community,” he said, noting he loved working outdoors in the field.

“Whether that be working with a team to plant a few thousand native seedlings or walking through the bush searching for traces of threatened species by way of diggings or even scat.

“One of the most exciting moments is flicking through the photos captured by the wildlife camera and coming across a rare or threatened species we didn’t know was there.”

The Australian Government, through funding from the National Forest Industries Plan and in partnershi­p with Forest & Wood Products Australia and industry organisati­ons around Australia including the Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub, has expanded the ForestVR toolkit to develop five new ForestVR experience­s showcasing careers in forest and wood products, Forest Science Explorers, and Agroforest­ry. All new experience­s will be accessible for schools and the general public by Term 4 via the ForestVR app, ForestLear­ning website as well as peak education career websites such as Education Services Australia’s myfuture.edu.au.

To learn more about Forest Learning’s Forest VR toolkit for schools visit the Forest Learning website.

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Jack Carter, an environmen­tal forester from ABP, filming the new VR school promotion footage using 360-degree cameras.
• Jack Carter, an environmen­tal forester from ABP, filming the new VR school promotion footage using 360-degree cameras.
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Courtney Pink, SFM regional forester, at the Glencoe Nursery filming the new forest VR footage.
• Courtney Pink, SFM regional forester, at the Glencoe Nursery filming the new forest VR footage.
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