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Previous projects

Meet some of our completed PhD Candidates.

Recently completed PhD projects

Measuring and assessing structural complexity in restoration plantings

Prof Brad Potts, Prof Mark Hunt, Dr Arko Lucieer, Dr Peter Harrison, Dr Neil Davidson

This project aims to establish and test a methodology to measure and assess forest structural complexity using a combination of remote sensing technologies and field surveyed data in the Tasmanian Midlands, one of Australia’s 15 biodiversity hotspot regions. Forest structure is commonly recognised to be a good indicator of biodiversity complexity, following the concept that ecosystems containing different stands with a broad variety of structural attributes are more likely to provide resources for a variety of species utilising them.

The project starts with a review of recent literature on structural complexity indices and ways to measure and assess its main attributes using remote sensing technology. Ecological questions will be investigated in the restoration planting at Dungrove, near Bothwell, where stability of provenance performance in pure and mixed species ecology trials has been tested. The project will then look at the tree-level assessment of structural attributes, in the restoration plantings, using a combination of field work and LiDAR data acquired from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). We will focus on the capabilities of hyperspectral imagery acquired from UAV to effectively differentiate between eucalypt species and potentially genetic provenances, and look at temporal changes in the development of structural attributes at Dungrove restoration site, using ground-based LiDAR (ZEB1) scans from three different years over three 0.1 ha plots.

Nicole Cameretta, YouTube video

Nicole Cameretta

Nicolo is conducting research in the field at Dungrove, a property in Bothwell in Tasmania’s central highlands.

The Business Case for trees on farms

Prof Mark Hunt, Dr Dugald Tinch, Dr Thomas Baker, Dr Daniel Mendham, Dr Anthony O'Grady, Dr Martin Moroni

Farmers are running a business and commonly will criticise a proposal for the establishment of trees on a farm if it does not include a business case. Trees within an agricultural setting provide valuable ecosystem services such as shade and shelter for stock and crops, reduced erosion, clean water and nutrient cycling. Such ecosystem services are rarely quantified and are therefore excluded from financial analyses. This means that the true economic value of tree establishment is misunderstood, especially when trees are established for non-fiber purposes. Therefore, there is a need to develop new models for estimating the true economic value for tree establishment. This project looks at the use of natural capital accounting as a way of measuring the varied benefits of trees on farms. This work will involve collating known benefits such as timber production and shelter benefits as well as calculating the potential economic value of other ecosystem services such the impacts of pests and predators.

Using developed models, this project will also asses how the benefits of trees on farms varies between planting for timber production and native forests established for restoration/ecosystem services.

Zara is currently running a survey to understand farmers preferences relating to the design of agroforestry plantings.

Zara Marais, YouTube video

Zara Marais

Zara is examining the business case for trees on farms. She's been conducting field work in Tasmania’s Northern.

Silvicultural options to optimise the productivity of Eucalyptus nitens

Supervisors: Assoc Prof Julianne O'Reily-Wapstra, Prof Mark Hunt, Dr Mark Neyland, Dr Andrew Jacobs, Dr Dean Williams

This project aims to enhance plantation productivity by understanding the effects of silvicultural management on growth and wood characteristics. In particular this project will examine the effects of tree spacing and thinning on critical wood properties such as basic density, tension wood and modulus of elasticity.

Vilius Gendvilas, YouTube video

Vilius Gendvilas

Vilius aims to enhance plantation productivity by understanding the effects of silvicultural management on growth and wood characteristics.

Non-destructive evaluation of plantation logs for segregation into different product types

Assoc Prof Julianne O'Reilly-Wapstra, Prof Mark Hunt, Assoc Prof Greg Nolan, Dr Nathan Kotlarewski, Dr Andrew Jacobs, Dr Dean Williams

There are great opportunities to extend the use of the hardwood plantation estate in Tasmania for higher-value products such as sawn material, veneers and engineered wood products. To maximise these opportunities, it is important to understand the wood quality traits of the current resource.

This project aims to investigate wood quality traits of standing eucalypt trees, logs and boards using non-destructive techniques. The project works across the full value chain of growers, harvesters and processors to:

  1. Investigate and map environmental effects on wood quality traits in fibre-grown Eucalyptus nitens plantations
  2. Examine the capacity to sort and segregate trees and logs on a harvesting landing using Non-Destructive Techniques to predict wood properties
  3. Investigate the perceived and effective characteristics of the raw material impacting different products
  4. Assess the volume and value recovery of eucalypt sawn material for structural production
  5. Investigate in-forest segregation systems to sort logs into different quality classes at the moment of harvest

The outcomes of this research will enable a greater understanding of the characteristics of the fibre-managed eucalypt plantation resource, its suitability for different product types and its potential uses, while validating the use of readily available and novel technologies to test wood quality.

Michelle Balasso , YouTube video

Vilius Gendvilas

Michelle's research project is investigating non-destructive techniques to predict properties and quality of plantation hardwood.