About the program

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Course descriptions

2010 Australian joint course

The 2010 Australian joint course provides an introduction to Australia's forests and forestry. The course is based at the University of Melbourne's Creswick campus from 8th - 19th February, and will include field trips visiting a wide range of southeast forests. In addition to providing an introduction to the national and international policy context for forest management, the subject will provide a sound theoretical and practical understanding of the major ecological processes in forest ecosystems, including a functional appreciation of forest soils.

The course is co-convened by Professor Peter Kanowski (ANU) and Dr Chris Weston (Melbourne). For more information, contact Chris Weston.

2010 Asia-Pacific joint course

This course comprises 14 days (including travel) in two components. The first component will draw from regional forestry organisations and experts, to set the context for forestry and forest policy in the region. The second component highlights how forest management is undertaken within a social, economic and environmental context and includes visits to smallholders, local communities, industry and government agencies involved in forest management. The social and political context of forest management is highlighted, along with the development of national level policy and the implementation issues of this policy at a local level.

For more information please contact Lyndall Bull


Partnership courses

Fire in the Environment

Fire is pivotal to the functioning of Australian ecosystems. This course explores a range of important themes concerning bushfires in Australian and international environments. The inter-dependent relationship between fire regimes and biota is explored using evidence from experiments and theory. Techniques for measuring and modelling fire regimes, including dendrochronology, charcoal sampling and landscape simulation, are then investigated. These are used to understand fire regimes of the past, present and future, including during pre-human, Aboriginal, and European eras. The sensitivity of fire regimes to natural and human factors provides context for exploring the likely effects of climate change and other aspects of global change on future bushfire occurrence. Similarly, it provides context for understanding the role of bushfire management, including prescribed burning, in modifying fire regimes. Finally, these themes are brought together with an analysis of integrated bushfire risk management.

For more information contact Dr Geoff Cary (geoffrey.cary@anu.edu.au)

International Environmental Policy

This course focuses on the dynamic field of international environmental policy (IEP), a field that has grown rapidly and dramatically over the last three decades, driven by concern over unprecedented and large-scale global environmental change, including climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, marine degradation, and expanding trade and consumption. International environmental policy now directly and indirectly affects the behaviour and decisions of governments, corporations, NGOs, local communities and individuals.

This course takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing insights from areas including ecology, law, economics, international relations and politics, and incorporates lectures, guest speakers from NGOs and government, panel discussions, debates and workshops, with an emphasis on understanding the real-world dynamics of policy formation and debate. The course will cover the nature of IEP; its development over recent decades; the actors and institutions which form and influence it; and the conflicts which shape it. Key areas of debate within IEP will be examined, including tensions between conservation and development; conflicts around knowledge, science, and uncertainty; and reliance on 'command and control' vs market-based approaches. Cross-cutting issues include gender, the fight against poverty, and the role of corporations. These issues will be explored through analysis of topical case studies, such as equity and climate change; biodiversity and livelihoods; biofuels and deforestation; and genetically modified organisms and international trade.

For more information contact Dr Ian Fry (ian.fry@anu.edu.au)

Forests and Water: Issues around the World

Water is the resource that most limits national development in many areas of the world. Droughts and floods are still major causes of human misery. Humans compete with vegetation for water, and the “balanced use of water resources” is a continuing debate. This subject takes the view that all water resource issues involve technical, social, political and economic aspects and attempts to untangle the issues and define "solutions." The subject involves considerable introductory hydrology including the hydrologic cycle, principles of stream flow, groundwater movement, and water quality. The subject will involve a mixture of lectures, “doing it” tasks including graphical and statistical analysis, excursions, and discussions. Particular stress will be placed on the problems of international rivers and a hydrologic system that does not recognise private property boundaries. Grading of the subject will be based on completion of a workbook of set tasks plus two major assignments, one of which will be an analysis of a long-term sequence of data and one will be an examination of a complex hydrologic issue. The subject will involve an overnight excursion to the River Murray examining issues associated with management of the river for diverse human and ecological needs.

his partnership course will be taught at the University of Melbourne’s Creswick campus from July 13 – July 24 2009. The coordinator of this subject is Associate Professor Leon Bren. For further information, contact Leon or see www.forests.unimelb.edu.au

Participatory Resource Management: Addressing Environmental Conflict

There is increasing recognition of the need to actively involve different stakeholders and communities in the process of making decisions about natural resource management (NRM). This course provides a critical review of participatory resource management (PRM) approaches, exploring when and why different PRM processes succeed or fail to resolve conflicts between stakeholders. Students learn the theories underpinning different PRM approaches, and practical skills such as group facilitation, stakeholder analysis and how to design and manage participatory processes. A series of guest speakers discuss recently implemented Australian and international participatory processes, and the class evaluates the factors that affected the success or otherwise of these processes. Recent research is reviewed to identify how theory and practice is shifting in the rapidly evolving field of PRM.

The course assessment is designed to ensure students apply the facilitation skills being taught, and that students can explore topics of particular interest to them in the field of PRM. For more information, contact Jacki Schirmer.

Silviculture and Forest Dynamics

This subject presents the science used in the management of native forest and plantations, covering forest establishment, composition, growth and quality to achieve specified objectives. It explores the ‘silvics’ of tree species and their influence on growth and management for the production of forest goods and environmental services. It covers the silvicultural principles and practices important to achieving the range of objectives for forested land such as water, wildlife habitat, or timber production. On completion of this subject, students should have an advanced understanding of: the dynamics and growth of forests and different stages of stand development, the effects of site climatic and edaphic factors and interactions among species on forest stand development and productivity and the design of silvicultural management practices for specific situations and products using modern modelling tools.

Quantifying Forest Ecosystems: Modern Techniques of Forest Inventory

This course promotes student understanding of the art and science of measuring and modelling forest resources. These resources include biomass and carbon pools, timber, and habitat potentially exploited by native fauna. Specifically, the aim is to:

  • Review and further develop the principles of measurement;
  • Present the state of the art and methodologies applicable for modern forest inventory;
  • Present methods for formulation and planning an effective and efficient inventory; and,
  • Enable participants to implement a modern inventory system and determine the advantages and disadvantages of available systems.

Topics include: introduction to sampling theory; issues involved in effective inventory design; equal and unequal probability sampling techniques; modern mensuration tools and techniques; designing and implementing an unequal probability-based inventory; and examining a modern national inventory system (e.g. National Carbon Accounting System). For more information, contact Cris Brack.

Sustainable Forest Management

Sustainable forest management involves the integration of a wide range of economic, environmental and social values. This subject presents the basis for sustainable forest management, the policy framework governing forest management, the scientific basis of landscape ecology and tools and techniques for analysis, design of management practices in forest landscapes and processes for successful development and implementation of forest management plans. At the completion of this subject students will have a sound understanding of 1) principles of forest management planning, sustainable land use and environmental management systems, 2) the policy framework for forest management, including: international conventions, national and state forest management, biodiversity and sustainability policies and codes of forest practice, and 3) techniques in forest landscape design and planning, including; optimisation and zoning of forest land uses; reserve design; integration of multiple objectives such as biodiversity conservation, timber production and water supply; spatial analysis and presentation; public consultation; management plan preparation, implementation and review

This partnership course will be taught at the University of Melbourne’s Creswick campus from November 2 – 13 2009. The coordinator of this subject is Professor Rod Keenan. For further information, contact Rod Keenan or see www.forests.unimelb.edu.au

Plantations and the Environment

Explores the use of planted forests in several different contexts; industrial plantations, farm forestry and restoration ecology. Lectures and field activities will focus on silvicultural inputs to improve plantation productivity in a sustainable manner (e.g. site preparation, weed control, fertilisation, inter-rotational management, pruning, thinning, harvesting) and the impact that plantations have on the environment (e.g. carbon sequestration, water use and water yield, nutrient cycles, biodiversity).

For more information, contact: Matthew Hamilton, Ph: (03) 6226 2646

Tree Breeding

Genetic improvement programs play an important role in improving the profitability of Australia's softwood and hardwood plantations. This unit introduces the application of genetic, economic and biological principles to tree breeding and deployment programs. Specific topics addressed in the unit include Mendelian and quantitative genetics, forest tree breeding strategies and the breeding cycle, bio-economic modelling, breeding objectives, selection criteria and their assessment, experimental design, progeny testing, genetic evaluation and the estimation of genetic worth, reproductive biology, deployment strategies, seed orchard management, clonal production systems and the application of biotechnology.

For more information, contact: Brad Potts (Brad.Potts@utas.edu.au)

Measuring Trees and Forests

If forests are to appreciated, used and managed sustainably, we must be able to measure the amounts in them of those things which are of interest to us. Trees are difficult to measure. They are large, parts of them (their roots) are hidden from sight and parts of them (their leaves and branches) are held in the air, far out of reach. But rather surprisingly, techniques have been developed which allow us to measure various parts of trees using quite unsophisticated equipment. Often, we measure easy to reach parts and then able to use these measurements, with more or less sophisticated mathematical techniques, to estimate the size of the bits of the tree which are difficult to reach or see. This course establishes the principles of forest measurement. It follows measurement progressively at three scales, from individual trees, to groups of trees (stands) and up to measurement over large forest areas (forest inventory as it is called). It is based on the forest measurement textbook written by the lecturer for the course, Prof Phil West (Tree and Forest Measurement, 2nd Edition. Springer, Berlin, 2009, ISBN 978-3-540-95965-6). Topics covered include measuring tree height, stem diameter and shape, stem wood volume and tree biomass, stand measurement and forest inventory. Consideration is given also to modern, sophisticated techniques of remote sensing at scales from individual trees on the ground to images from satellites.

The course is taught over the Southern Cross University first “session” of each year, which extends from late February until late May. Video recordings are made of weekly, two hour lectures which are delivered in Lismore and made available via the internet for viewing by students elsewhere. Students will be required to attend a four day, intensive practical course, which is held in Lismore in the second or third week of April each year. Assessment is through reports on practical exercises and through a 3 hr, open-book examination at the end of the session.

For more information, contact: Phil West (pwest@nor.com.au, Ph: (02) 6624 3966)

Tree Growth & Development

The molecular revolution is increasingly affecting the way we understand and manage our natural systems. This subject delivers a detailed examination of the developmental and molecular basis of tree growth, with specific focus on wood formation and tolerance to environmental stress. In this subject students will explore how this knowledge can be applied in forested land management including in support of tree improvement and ecosystem management. The practical component aims to provide students with exposure to a sub-set of molecular and microscopic technical skills including the use of botanical micro-techniques and the more common molecular tools. Technical and socio-economic challenges will be critically discussed and evaluated. This subject has been designed to target students with forestry, land management, science and biochemistry backgrounds but will be invaluable for any student that wishes to expand their understanding of the role trees play in terrestrial ecosystems.

For more information, contact: Gerd Bossinger (gerd@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 5321 4176)

Forest Resource Assessment

This subject gives quantitative understanding of the role of inventory (forest and tree measurement and assessment) in planning the management of native and plantation forest resources. It includes planning and execution of a forest assessment, and processing of assessment data to a form suitable for input into forest management.

For more information, contact: Julian Fox (jcfox@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 9250 6862)

Forest Planning & Business Management

This subject covers the management of forest businesses and decision-making for public and private forest organisations. Students will be required to work as part of a team to investigate a forested area, analyse appropriate forest information and prepare and present a balanced forest plan that includes recommendations for future management options. Content includes:

  • commercial objectives of forestry enterprises;
  • management of forest businesses and decision-making;
  • advanced budgeting, financial management and valuation, and assessment of silvicultural options;
  • long-term and short-term planning systems;
  • linear programming and simulation models for forest planning;
  • cost-competitiveness and technological improvement;
    marketing and product mix;
  • development of multi-purpose management plans for native, industrial, farm or community forests.

For more information, contact: Peter Ades (petera@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 8344 5036)

Farm Trees and Agroforestry

This subject covers the principles and practices of integrating trees into the rural agricultural landscape for both conservation and profit. The farming community require trees and shrubs for shade and shelter, soil conservation, salinity control and aesthetics. Farmers can also produce commercial tree products such as timber, fuel, fodder, essential oils and food. Because farmers manage the majority of the Australian landscape governments, community groups and industry are increasingly working in partnership with them to grow trees for environmental services including carbon sequestration, biodiversity and downstream water quality.

For more information, contact: Peter Vinden (pvinden@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 8344 5238)

Bushfire Planning and Management

This subject covers the fundamentals of setting and achieving bushfire management objectives for ecological and fire protection purposes in natural ecosystems. It covers the contents of a fire management plan, setting objectives, developing fire prescriptions, undertaking monitoring and evaluation of the management process, and review.

For more information, contact: Kevin Tolhurst (kgt@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 5321 4162)

Trees in a Changing Climate

This subject will provide a broad understanding of functional tree biology. Modern forest science, ecology and management relies on tools and models based on functional parameters of trees, e.g. in forest growth modelling, estimating water use by forests, assessing risks by environmental extremes, quantifying carbon sequestration by forests etc. Masters level forest scientists are expected to adequately and critically interpret such scenarios and outputs, a task that can only be achieved by the fundamental understanding of how the main forest resource – trees – work.

For more information, contact: Michael Tausz (michael.tausz@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 5321 4310) or Stefan Arndt (sarndt@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 9250 6819)

Plantation Silviculture

Plantation forests are grown to supply wood for building, paper or bioenergy and to provide environmental benefits such as sequestration of carbon, waste disposal, rehabilitation of degraded sites or enhancement of regional biodiversity. Plantation forestry is often like other agricultural enterprises, aiming to produce highly productive forests on relatively small areas of land. To do so requires that much attention be paid to their ‘silviculture’, that is, to the tending of trees to achieve the desired objectives. This course discusses the silvicultural techniques used in plantation forests today. It covers the biology of plantation growth, wood quality, species and site selection, cultivation and planting, nutrition, tree spacing, thinning, pruning, pests and diseases, tree breeding and mixed-species plantations. It is designed to give students a real understanding of the scientific principles which drive plantation forestry today.

The course is taught in ‘Socratic’ mode over the Southern Cross University second “session”, which extends from mid June until late September. The course is usually taught bi-annually and is likely to be offered in 2011. It is based about the textbook written by the lecturer for the course, Prof Phil West (Growing Plantation Forests. Springer, Berlin, 2006, ISBN 3-540-32478-X). A set of written questions are provided weekly to students, covering particular chapters of the book. Weekly tutorials are held in Lismore to discuss these questions before they have to be answered. Video recordings are made of the tutorials and made available via the internet for viewing by students elsewhere; if students have provided questions in advance of the tutorial, they will be answered during the tutorial. Computer based practical exercises on plantation growth behaviour and economic outcomes of silvicultural practices are done also, with evening tutorials for these being held through a live, internet based ‘virtual classroom’ system.

For more information, contact: Phil West (pwest@nor.com.au, Ph: (02) 6624 3966)

Australia’s Forests

Australia's Forests introduces students to values and issues associated with Australia's native, plantation, farm and urban forests, and to relevant policy and management regimes. The course comprises field (5 days based near Tumbarumba) and classroom (4 days) components, delivered over an 13-day block in Winter Session from 4 July to 16 July.

For more information contact Professor Peter Kanowski (peter.kanowski@anu.edu.au)

Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation

Climate change represents one of the most significant challenges facing managers, policy makers and scientists today, across the spectrum of our interactions with the environment. This graduate-level course focuses on aspects of human-environment systems that are amongst the most vulnerable to climate change, and explores possible adaptation and mitigation responses to the risks associated with those vulnerabilities.

The fundamental science of climate change in the context of natural climate variability provides a foundation for considering vulnerability to climate change, and a module on mitigation strategies surveys both the economic instruments being developed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a range of energy options.  Vulnerability to climate change impacts, and possible adaptive strategies, are discussed thematically, with foci that can include human health, biodiversity, water, fire, land management and urban systems.  The capacity of our social systems and institutions to adapt, and the governance issues associated with adaptation, are also addressed.  Approaches to integrating biophysical and social information in decision making for climate change vulnerability and adaptation bring together these various strands.

For more information contact Professor Brendan Mackey (brendan.mackay@anu.edu.au)

Plant Physiology & Ecology

Plant Physiology and Ecology The behaviour of plants in relation to their environment depends to a large part on their physiological adaptations to deal with those environmental circumstances. Universities often teach courses on plant ecology and on plant physiology, but rarely are the two disciplines brought together to emphasise their close relationship.

The course starts by discussing:

  • Photosynthesis - this is the basic process through which plants live. And the environment has major influences on it. We keep harking back to it throughout the course. It then moves on to the principal environmental factors which determine plant development.
  • Water - water availability is the principal environmental factor to which different types of plants have adapted and so determines where different plant communities grow.
  • Light - light is essential for photosynthesis. Different types of plants within any one community have developed various adaptations to deal with the different light environments they encounter, depending whether they grow in full sun or in the shade cast by the taller plants within their community.
  • Temperature - the temperature environment within which plants grow determines their rate of growth and is a principal factor which has driven the development of different species groups in different parts of the world.
  • Nutrients - mineral nutrients from the soil are essential to the biochemical functioning of plants and different species have developed adaptations to deal with the availability to them of nutrients in their native environments.

Finally, things are brought together by discussing:

  • Evolution - that is how we come to have the different types of plants which occur in various parts of Australia and in the world.

It is anticipated that adequate student numbers will be available in 2010 to run this course. It will be taught as a seven-day, intensive block at the TAFE SA campus in Mt Gambier, over the period Tuesday 13th – Wednesday 23rd June inclusive (Saturday and Sunday excluded).

For more information, contact: Phil West (pwest@nor.com.au, Ph: (02) 6624 3966)

Forests, Carbon & Climate Change

This subject will investigate the role of forests in the carbon cycle and in a changing climate. Students will learn the scientific basis for climate change and the impact that a changing climate might have on tree physiology and forest ecology. We will discuss the role forests play in the global carbon cycle and the degree to which forests or plantations can be used as a carbon sequestration option. We will evaluate the requirements for forest carbon accounting and will apply carbon accounting tools in hands-on accounting sessions with industry partners. This scientific understanding will be extended to discuss policy instruments under consideration in Australia and in the International arena for the potential role of forests in carbon emissions trading. The subject will equip students with state-of-the-art knowledge on the impact of climate change on forest ecosystems and with practical experiences in forest carbon accounting.

For more information, contact: Michael Tausz (michael.tausz@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 5321 4310) or Stefan Arndt (sarndt@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 9250 6819

Ecological Restoration

At the end of this subject students will have an advanced understanding of:

  • properties of degraded versus functioning ecosystems;
  • need for forest restoration (Australia and elsewhere);
  • goals for forest restoration;
  • forest restoration methods;
  • properties of landscape matrices;
  • indicators of forest function and restoration success at different scales; benefits of forest restoration.

For more information, contact: Lauren Bennett (ltb@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 5321 4192) or Sabine Kasel (skasel@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 9250 6868)

Timber in the Built Environment

This subject introduces students to the impact of wood utilisation in the environment, the concepts of sustainability, cradle to grave analysis, ISO 14001 within the context of continuous environmental improvement in an industrial environment, energy and chemical production from biomass. Students will be introduced to concepts in:

  • timber engineering, including the mechanical properties of wood (stress and strain, compression stress, tension shear, bending, elastic and plastic deformation, factors affecting mechanical properties, wood creep, visual and machine stress grading, fasteners and connectors.
  • design durability, including fire resistance, surface coatings, smell, acid resistance, electrical properties, acoustic properties, permeability, gluing properties and adhesion
  • the design of structures, the role of industrial design, automation and modular coordination in building and furniture manufacture
  • biomass waste utilisation and recycling, the various processing options available
  • forest industries and their role in developing economies.

For more information, contact: Peter Vinden (pvinden@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 8344 5238 ) or Barbara Ozarska (bo@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 9250 6878)

Bushfires and Biodiversity

This subject covers the basic effects of fire on aspects of biodiversity and nutrient cycling in ecosystems. Managers are committed to developing science-based ecological burning strategies which achieve both biodiversity and asset protection objectives. Increased knowledge of the ecological impacts of fire on plants, animals and micro-organisms facilitates a better understanding of how more effective management can be achieved.

For more information, contact: Alan York (alan.york@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 5321 4270 ) or Julian Di Stefano (juliands@unimelb.edu.au, Ph: (03) 5321 4259

Forest Operations

The course is directed to the role of the forest manager in forest harvesting. It entails evolution of forest harvesting, social and economic aspects of the business of forest harvesting, logging systems analyses, harvesting technology, felling, extraction including skidding, forwarding, cable logging and aerial logging techniques, landing operations and location, wood transport and transport scheduling, and the role of information technology in forest harvesting. It will also deal with preparation of harvesting plans, the structure of contracts and timber sales agreements. The health and safety of harvesting workers will be given emphasis. Introduction to forest hydrology, hydrological processes, erosion, sedimentation, flood, water quality in relation to forest resource management. Principles of planning forest roads: location, construction and maintenance of roads. Harvesting business management and ethics. Environmental impacts of harvesting and roading; control procedures and practices. Costing of harvesting operations.

For more information contact Lyndall Bull (lyndall.bull@anu.edu.au)