Sunday, July 20, 2008

Heroes of forest inventory

If you have ever headed back to forest after dinner feeling that your sample plot quota for the day has not been fulfilled, this post is devoted to you. You are one of the heroes of forest inventory.

One very typical feature in planning of different forest inventories is that the amount of work needed to finish the campaign is underestimated. Usually the result is that the number of plots or measurements that have been made in the given time is considerably smaller than was planned. However, sometimes it happens that the field crew won’t submit to this, but finds extra energy to carry on with the work when others would have given up. In Joensuu, by far the most legendary example of this are the 474 Matalansalo sample plots, measured in August/September 2004 by Aki and Henri. Their epic work has thereafter inspired many Joensuu’s forest inventory students, and the data has been utilized in numerous studies in the field of airborne laser scanning.

What makes some of us capable of heroic inventory achievements? In practice, forest inventory work means long days in hostile forests, with an immense herd of blood-thirsty mosquitoes whining in your ears, dry spruce twigs stabbing your face, and rain or sweat soaking you wet every day. My feeling is that the motives include at least an extra-developed sense of responsibility and a will to show your superiors that you can reach the goals that you were given. What is clear is that this kind of behaviour is most typical to students, especially if they are gathering data for their own research project. The students at this summer's MARV1-course in Hyytiälä showed that the tradition is likely to continue – hopefully their extra motivation did not arise from pure compulsion, but from knowing that their data will used in real research. On the other hand, more senior field workers seldom bother to continue after their working hours are done – they do the work they are paid for properly and deserve all the respect, but researchers that have the courage to employ students may experience also positive surprises…

And what about my mensuration campaign this summer? The fact that I needed to take two extra weeks in Hyytiälä to finish all the planned measurements should tell everything.

Never let someone else choose your plot locations!

Field assistant establishing LAI-plot

Monday, July 7, 2008

Breaking the routine

In April, Lauri described a typical week in office and lunch as the highlight of a day. I guess this is how many of our days are, nothing too much happening. Fortunately, there are also times when I wish I would have just one ordinary day in office to take care of this and that - the normal, boring days in office are after all something I enjoy.

I spent most of May and June in Helsinki, and it proved to be time for flying from one place to another - no time for sitting in the office and staring at my computer screen. There were two main reasons for this: the PHYSENSE workshop we were organizing in Helsinki and the Solemn Conferment ceremonies of our Faculty (and all the preparations related to both of them).

The PHYSENSE workshop was the second one we organized, so there was a certain routine to it already. Things went smoothly, and at least I enjoyed the workshop and meeting friends once again.

The Solemn Conferment ceremonies at our Faculty are arranged every six years and last for three days including two formal dinners, the Conferment, a grand ball and a countryside picnic. The dress code for all the events is very strict, and takes some time (and effort) to fulfill. Through May, we also practiced old academic dances such as Krakowiak, Valse Mignon, Cicapo and Pas d'Espagne. However, for me, the toughest part was preparing my two (trilingual) speeches for the Solemn Conferment. I know it is the daily job of many people to make formal speeches for big audiences, but for a regular postdoc like me it is certainly a task out of the ordinary. I spent two weeks before the ceremonies simply being nervous...

During the Solemn Conferment, a special reason for joy for our research group was that Tiit Nilson was appointed as an honorary doctor in our Faculty - a beautiful way to acknowledge his long collaboration with the Finnish forest research community.

Recovering from the Solemn Conferment (and the four hours of sleep per night we were able to catch) took me several days. I can honestly admit that I was sleeping in front of my screen, not just staring at it.

A few days after the celebrations Yuri Knyazikhin came for a visit. It was very nice seeing him again, and hearing about future research plans and planning collaboration. In our mini-seminar (i.e. Yuri, Pola, Matti, me) Yuri presented his ideas which involved (surprise, surprise!) our favorite spectral invariants, and Matti presented his new algorithm for retrieving leaf albedo from hyperspectral RS data.

After waving goodbye to Yuri, it was the time for me to say goodbye to Helsinki and head for Tartu (and summer vacation!). Ordinary office days are getting closer...

Conferment picnic (by Matti)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

PHYSENSE workshop

We had the second PHYSENSE workshop in Helsinki in the beginning of June. Lots of interesting talks and new faces! I was personally very glad to see so many (young) people presenting their work. (For those interested, the abstracts of the PHYSENSE talks can be accessed at a website set up by Lauri.)