Student wins Asia-Pacific medal for eucalypt study | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Student wins Asia-Pacific medal for eucalypt study

A USC student has won an international industry excellence award for his Science Honours research that used a range of tools and technologies to accurately map a single tree species in state forests.

Kent Olive, 33, of Maroochydore, won a category of the Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards Queensland after his USC study successfully classified spotted gum in plantation and mixed-species native trees at Bauple and St Mary state forests, south of Maryborough.

This innovation could be valuable in conservation, land use planning and forestry.

Kent, who also has a USC Bachelor of Arts (Geography), won the Clem Jones Medal in the Undergraduate Student category.

His project integrated data from high-resolution satellite imagery and aerial laser scanning, then used modelling, image analysis and algorithms to identify and locate spotted gum. The accuracy was assessed via field surveys.

“Spotted gum is an important endemic Australian eucalypt which has significant conservation and hardwood value across Queensland,” Kent said.

“Applying remote sensing to classify spotted gum typifies the application of innovative technologies to a uniquely Australian situation.

“It was great to be recognised among spatial science projects that are working towards enhancing environmental and social outcomes for all of us.”

His USC supervisor, Senior Lecturer in Geospatial Analysis Dr Sanjeev Srivastava said the classification and mapping of individual tree species from remotely sensed data had the potential to overcome limitations in the broad-scale mapping of regional ecosystems.

“It can be used to inform land-use planning, conservation and sustainable forest management, with the potential to improve time, cost and accuracy efficiencies across the conservation, planning and forestry sectors,” he said.

Kent, a former chef from central and far north Queensland, said he enrolled at USC in his late 20s to combine his fascination with the natural environment and its protection with his curiosity about technology and science.

“I then developed an interest in using remote sensing and geographic information systems to improve environmental outcomes,” he said.

“This project also allowed me to collaborate with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF), providing invaluable experience for my future career.”

When Kent graduated with his Arts (Geography) degree in April, he received a University Medal and a Royal Geographic Society of Queensland award for the highest graduating geography student, with a perfect grade point average of 7 out of 7.

He also received a scholarship from the Institute of Foresters of Australia.

“I aim to work as a spatial analyst for progressive organisations dedicated to improving environmental outcomes,” he said.

His other supervisors were Dr Tom Lewis of QDAF and Dr Mohammad Reza Ghaffariyan of USC’s Forest Industries Research Centre.

— Julie Schomberg

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