By Astrid Van den Bossche
Since October, a new marteloscope has been added to the Integrate Network. It concerns a rather small forest patch, located in Het Leen in Eeklo, Flanders (Belgium). This particular forest stand has been managed and monitored by Ghent University for many years, and so, one of its students did an internship at the European Forest Institute to help adding the marteloscope to the international Integrate network. This student happens to be me. My name is Astrid Van den Bossche and I am currently finishing my degree in Bioscience engineering: Forest and Nature Management. Today, months after the ending of my internship, I am writing this post in order to share all my experiences at the European Forest Institute.
Before the start of the internship, I was very excited. It felt as if I was granted a unique opportunity to experience the ins and outs of an international organisation. I’m sure I talked way too much about it, tiring everyone around me with my endless stream of details about everything I was going to do and how this internship was such an amazing opportunity. A couple of months later, after some site visits with Jakob Derks and some speed-courses in the use of the various equipment, necessary to perform all the measurements, the real work could finally begin.
All of a sudden, I found myself alone at the marteloscope stand, located in the middle of a practically deserted forest. I only came across a few early joggers and an occasional bird watcher on my way to the marteloscope stand. When arriving at the stand, a couple of startled deer jumped away. The fog was slowly being driven away by the increasingly strong rays of sunshine. I dropped all my stuff somewhere in the middle of the forest stand and took out my notebook. A lot of measurements had to be done and I knew the evening would fall early since the forest stand was quite dense and the trees still had a lot of leaves on their branches.
After running from tree to tree all morning, determining tree positions, tree species, looking for microhabitats or measuring diameters and heights, I started to feel hungry. I had found a nice bench on the edge of a large open space. It was a nice place to warm up a little. The forest site was quite humid and cold, and hardly any sunlight reached the forest floor in order to provide some warmth. Lunch break existed out of some homemade sandwiches or, on a rare occasion, I decided to walk back to the entrance and get a warm meal at the domain restaurant. In the afternoon the forest was livelier. Schoolkids were racing the pathways on their bikes, elderly couples were enjoying their weekly forest hike and were really interested in what I was doing with all the rather strangely looking equipment. They were all quite surprised learning that a piece of their local forest would soon be a part of a large international network. Around 4.30 p.m. the evening started to fall, reducing the visibility in the forest patch. I packed my things and headed back to where I parked my car, preparing myself to face the chaos of the Belgian evening rush hour. It was a blessing that during my inventories the weather was mostly dry. I guess that what is good for the environment is not always pleasant for foresters.
After about a week of visiting the site and performing various measurements, the work was done and the analysing and processing of the data could start. A lot of variables had to be calculated, varying from volume to economic value of each individual tree. It took me several days of computer work, and afterwards it turned out that analysing all the data took as long as gathering them. Finally, the results of my measurements and calculations could be found in the I+ Manager app. This marked the official end of my internship, the final step was to write a report and present the results.
Now I have told you about my experiences in the forest and what a typical day of my internship at EFI looked like. Sadly enough, there was still a pandemic going on, so I haven’t met a lot of people working at EFI and I never got the chance to visit the Bonn office. However, I did participate in a science seminar and attended several meetings. Being able to do an internship at this international organisation has been a unique experience and I am sure that the experiences I gained will prove to be of great value in the near future.