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Once in Freiburg do like the ConFoBi people do

To better integrate into a new situation, the secret is to blend into the crowd. An Italian in Germany can be easily spotted, they say. But I think I have done my best to squeeze into the great ConFoBi research group, during the three weeks of my Short Scientific Visit at the University of Freiburg (funded by the EFI SSV 2018 grant). Indeed, thanks to the funding provided by the European Forest Institute, I was able to visit the University of Freiburg in order to make an exchange of scientific knowledge. The EFI SSV aims to strengthening forest research institutions’ network in Europe, allowing young scientists to gain experience of working in a different organisation in another European country, foster collaboration, and learn a new technique, methods or tools not available in their own institution.

My stay at the Chair of Wildlife Ecology and Management was part of the activities related to my PhD research project (University of Padova, Italy), which aims to assess forest biodiversity change in relation to the EU Nature Directives implementation (Natura 2000 protected areas network), using birds as bioindicators. According to the main topic of my study, ConFoBi is a perfect project to collaborate with, since there are many synergies and potential opportunities of collaborations between the research teams of Italy and Germany.

Thanks to the kind welcome I received in Freiburg, I had the opportunity to have a peer to peer knowledge exchange experience. Practically speaking, I meet most of the component of the ConFoBi people and discuss about approaches, methodologies and objectives. Meeting people and having a chat about the projects we are carrying on respectively was very interesting and useful, since it was a good way to share information. Being an applied researcher, as I prefer to consider myself, I also took the opportunity to participate to some of the field activities and surveys that were undergoing during that period.

Forest scientist do not have any defined time for working: we follow the rhythms of nature. That is why one of the survey activities I took part to has been carried on during the evening, together with PhD candidate Marco Basile. Darkness was needed to survey the presence/absence of night owls in one of the survey plots of the ConFoBi projects. After a standard time of playback of bird calls and songs, we listened to any reaction of possible birds in the area. Thanks to the help of a hi-tech parabolic microphone, connected to a recorder, it was possible to detect the presence of a couple of Towny owls.

I experienced some activities under the daylight too. I accompanied Thomas Asbeck and his team of collaborators to several plots and I learnt the procedure for the assessment of the tree-related microhabitats, through the method of the ‘15 biggest trees’ and the ‘total inventory’. The Black Forest and its environment did their best to let me experience a wide array of possible situations in the forest: snow, wind, cloud, sunshine, light rain… there was a continual succession of all these elements during just one day, so that the Black Forest has no more secrets to me!

 Forests and nature, more in general, do not know any political or administrative boundary. That is why such international experiences of knowledge exchange are very useful to better understand the environment we want to study, protect and manage. Indeed, we might have different histories, cultures or mindsets, but, in the end, we have and we should share a common responsibility towards the forests that cover our planet.

by Alessia Portaccio