Visiting BOKU University in Vienna

Long had I intended to pay BOKU University in Vienna another visit and much prevented me from carrying out this plan, too many excuses that couldn’t be ignored or so at least we often think by ourselves. To me BOKU University Vienna – officially the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, is a place of many friends: Here I found many people I collaborated with over the years, I found mentors and students. Many of them visited me at the various places I have worked in Europe and finally I decided to apply for my habilitation at BOKU, which was awarded to me in 2009. The fact that one of my friends here, Hubert Hasenauer, recently has become the vice-chancellor of BOKU, was another incentive to return. At the same time it is is nice to contribute to increasing the cooperation between BOKU and SLU.

BOKU is a truly lovely place, not too far from Vienna city centre but placed in a slightly quieter part of the city next to a large and very attractive park which seems like a natural extension of the campus. The representative facade of the Wilhelm-Exner building at 82 Peter-Jordan Street offers a special welcome in style. The onset of lovely autumn colours in adjacent vineyards is a particular treat and consuming moderate amounts of Heurigen vine clearly fuels scientific inspiration. It was wonderful that my BOKU mentor and friend Hubert Sterba took me to one of Vienna’s Heurigen restaurants the other day.

Manfred Lexer, acting head of the Institute of Silviculture, and I submitted a guest-professorship proposal to BOKU’s Senate last year and after its approval in December 2018 planned this visit, which I unfortunately had to postpone by one term, as I needed the time in the first half of the year to finish my textbook. At the same time Hubert Hasenauer kindly supported my visit, as we had agreed to meet up again a long time ago.In the end things worked out very well, since I could prepare my course in “Individual-based forest ecology and management” in good time and the accompanying textbook had just appeared in print on time.

The Institute of Silviculture has a long tradition in eco-physiological gap modelling (such as the PICUS model) but also with statistical individual-oriented modelling, such as the MOSES model. During my visit I am attempting to add to this rich modelling expertise my experience in point-process inspired individual-based modelling. Currently I am using some of Hubert Hasenauer’s Norway spruce – Scots pine data that he used for his MOSES model to develop a new, advanced interaction-field-based model for mixed-species forests. The model will be based on relative growth rates and attempts to better describe the simultaneous allocation of biomass to height and stem-diameter growth.

At the same time I am cooperating with Xiaohong Zhang from the Chinese Academy of Forestry who currently spends a year at BOKU’s Institute of Silviculture and is attending my course in “Individual-based forest ecology and management”. Together we are investigating the interaction between Quercus mongolica and Pinus koraiensis in semi-natural woodlands in China’s Jilin province.

On Tuesday, 22 October, I will give a scientific talk on “Understanding forest development through interaction: Individual-based models in forestry” as part of the Institute’s Science Afternoon.

It is good that there is funding for such academic visits. They clearly make a big difference to the life of researchers and students. Everybody involved in them gains experience, motivation and inspiration, things that are so essential to our daily work. I wished more SLU students and researchers would use the opportunity to visit BOKU.

By Arne Pommerening

My background is in forest science with a PhD in forest biometrics (from Göttingen University (Germany) and a Habilitation in forest biometrics (from BOKU University Vienna (Austria). For eleven years I have been working in the fields of quantitative forest management and quantitative ecology at Bangor University (North Wales, UK) before working for a short while in Switzerland. Since 2014 I work as a Professor in Mathematical Statistics Applied to Forest Science at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU in Umeå and my research areas include woodland structure analysis and modelling, spatio-temporal dynamics of plant point patterns, individual-based modelling with a focus on plant interactions, plant growth analysis, methods of quantifying and monitoring biodiversity and the analysis of human behaviour of selecting trees. Much of my research is computer-based using simulation experiments and my research is strongly interdisciplinary and international.

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