IUFRO Student Award for Excellence in Forest Science Winners 2024

Annie Biju is a Research Scholar in forest biotechnology at the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, India, from where she also obtained her Master’s of Science degree in Forestry. She is currently serving as the Coordinator for the Joint IUFRO – IFSA Task Force on Forest Education.

Her Master thesis was conducted at Kerala Forest Research Institute with the title ‘Genetic Polymorphism in Selected Plus Trees of Teak Using EST – SSR Markers’. She used molecular biology techniques such as genomic DNA isolation, PCR amplification, geL analysis, documentation, geL elution, SSR genotyping, and data analysis using population genetics softwares such as GenAlEx, Powermarker etc.

Annie Biju’s study identified plus trees with probable adaptive potential towards stress which could be further utilized for establishing climate resilient teak plantations in Kerala and South India. From existing teak genetic resources, she identified 32 private alleles from her study with probable adaptive potential using four EST – SSR Markers.
Her current work is on ‘CRISPR/Cas 9 – based Functional Evaluation of Gene(s) for Resistance against Fusarium Wilt in Dalbergia sissoo’.

Liam Gilson, University of British Columbia, Canada, obtained their M.Sc. in Sustainable Forest Management from Oregon State University, U.S.A. The title of their thesis is “Drivers of Productivity Differences between Native and Exotic Range Douglas-fir Plantations in Oregon and New Zealand”.

Liam Gilson’s research, published in their M.Sc. thesis and subsequent peer-reviewed publication, contributes incremental science towards understanding responses of a tree species to environmental conditions outside those in its current geographic range. Their work therefore contributes to building strategies for mitigating effects of climate change on a very important tree species both ecologically and commercially.

Their research helps fill a gap in fundamental research on identifying climatic factors that explain growth differences observed at a wide range of geographic scales. A major innovation of this research was the growth analysis of plantations in both Oregon and Washington that originated from exactly the same seedlot.

Liam Gilson’s current research seeks to create climate-sensitive growth and mortality models for interior spruce (Picea glauca X Picea engelmanii), a species of commercial and cultural importance in British Columbia, Canada.

Apsana Kafle is engaged as a research assistant at the University of Alberta, Canada, to study the response of boreal conifers (white spruce and lodgepole pine) to drought and silviculture management. She also obtained her M.Sc. in Forest Biology and Management from the University of Alberta.

The primary objective of her thesis research was to determine a forest management approach that will ensure a steady supply of timber in the face of changes in the climate and human-caused disturbances in the boreal forest.
Her research is an example of climate-smart silviculture, an evolving concept to acknowledge the challenges and opportunities posed by climate change in forestry. Unlike traditional silviculture, which focuses on single objectives such as mitigating climate impacts or meeting timber supply needs, this research recognizes the potential of utilizing silvicultural tools to address current forest management challenges like wildfires and pest infestations, while also meeting future demands for forest products.

The research has identified silviculture tools for sustainably managing boreal forests of Western Canada to address the timber supply crisis faced globally.

Aline Krolow Soares is a post-doctoral researcher at the Federal University of Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil. She obtained an M.Sc. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Federal University of Pelotas (2018) and a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and Science at Federal University of Paraná (2023).

In the course of her research, she developed a unique methodology to recover effluent residues from a eucalyptus essential oil distillation industry, focusing on biorefinery and circular economy concepts. For this purpose, the effluent by-products were used in the new distillations cycle to reduce the use of clean water and increase the concentration of higher-value bioactive compounds. The spectroscopic, colorimetric, and chromatographic methods were employed to characterize the products. The high concentration of sugars in the by-product was suitable for producing lactic acid through a fermentation process, which has broad applicability in the pharmaceutical industry.

Based on the outcome obtained in the research, it was possible to reduce water usage by up to seven times and bring high-value commercial products for applications in the pharmaceutical, food, and technological material industries.

Aditi Mishra is a Ph.D. research scholar specializing in Forest Ecology at the G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment, Almora, India. She obtained her M.Sc. in Environment Management from the Forest Research Institute deemed to be University, Dehradun, India.

Aditi Mishra’s research focused on monitoring the plant phenological shifts using ground based remote sensing techniques – phenocams. The phenocams or digital time lapse cameras were deployed on selected economically important tree species to monitor phenological changes. The main objective of the study was to assess the effectiveness of phenocams as a tool for monitoring phenology. Monitoring phenological changes is important because it provides valuable information about how plant species are responding to environmental changes such as climate change, which is a global concern.

The innovation of monitoring plant phenological shifts using phenocams lies in its non-invasive and cost-effective approach. This approach allows researchers to collect large amounts of data on plant phenology over long periods of time, which can be analyzed to gain insights into how environmental factors are affecting plant growth and development.

Sara Motte obtained her M.Sc. in Bioscience Engineering: Forest and Nature Management (Magna cum Laude), from Ghent University (UGent), Belgium. The research was conducted at Ghent University (UGent) and included a fieldwork campaign in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sara Motte’s research focuses on the significant contribution of the Congo Basin to climate change mitigation by exploring the process of carbon sequestration and its underlying mechanisms. The research findings, which involve a comparative analysis of present-day species compositions with a unique forest inventory dating back to 1916, offer vital new insights into the ongoing debate surrounding the drivers of the carbon sink in the Congo Basin. Understanding these drivers is crucial for predicting the future of this invaluable carbon sink.

Being 52 years older than the previously oldest known forest inventory in Central Africa and 66 years older than the previously oldest known forest inventory in the DR Congo, the inventory analyzed in this research gives a unique new century-wide window on Central African forest history.

Barbara Öllerer obtained her degree of Diplom-Ingenieurin (Dipl.-Ing.) in the Master’s programme Forest Sciences from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria. The title of her Master’s thesis is “Gender-specific barriers in forestry: How do Austrian female leaders perceive barriers and what are their strategies to overcome them?”

In this thesis Barbara Öllerer addresses gender issues in the Austrian forestry sector. The Austrian forestry sector, as is the case in many other countries worldwide, is traditionally male dominated. Although the sector is of great economic importance, there is currently very little literature that addresses gender issues in the Austrian forestry sector. Most of the research takes place in Scandinavia.

The thesis goes beyond merely using numbers and statistics as the only measure of gender equality and examines the underlying values, norms, and structures. It conducts an empirical investigation based on qualitative interviews and addresses reasons for underrepresentation, gender-specific barriers, and goes one step further by additionally addressing ways to overcome them. Thus, the thesis is an important contribution to research in this field.

Kamana Poudel obtained her Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky, U.S.A. The title of her thesis is “Economic Contribution of Forest Sector in Kentucky: Community Dependence and Economic Well-Being.” Her current doctoral research at the College of Forestry at Oregon State University focuses on private and public land forest policies and the economy of the rural forest dependent communities.

There has been a lot of research on dependence on the forest sector and its relationship to the economic well-being of these communities in other regions mostly in the U.S.A. and Canada. However, a literature gap exists regarding the state of Kentucky, a state highly dependent on the forest sector.

To address this research gap, Kamana Poudel’s research aims to examine the relationship between forest sector dependence and economic well-being not only at the statewide level but also within three regions of Kentucky. The first classification is based on physiographic delineation, which considers geographical features, while the second classification is based on poverty rates. This research provides a unique analysis of the forest sector in Kentucky.

Seongmin Shin has been a research consultant at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Bogor, Indonesia since March 2023. He obtained his Master of Science in Agriculture from Seoul National University, Republic of Korea. Currently, Seongmin Shin is undertaking a research project on “The Poverty Dynamics of Tree Planting Initiatives: Unpacking Sustainability Paradigms”.

With a systematic review approach, his research has focused on agroforestry in the Asia-Pacific region to assess the current state of knowledge and identify research gaps. Additionally, he led a book chapter on comparing soil microfauna diversity between a burnt and unburnt peatland in Indonesia while working for CIFOR. The research has contributed to understanding soil macrofauna diversity, properties and changes in a burnt peatland area undergoing restoration by establishing a bioenergy plantation.

Seongmin Shin has employed various innovative technical methods to address the research questions in forest science. Among other things, he evaluated and analyzed the effects of forest restoration in agroforestry practice against disasters (fire) on environmental dynamics and livelihood with forest plots and other statistical tools in climate-smart forestry.