For foresters everywhere, making an accurate inventory of the types and numbers of trees in a particular area is a fundamental step in managing the resource. In the past, this involved hard physical work hiking through the isolated country, making observations and taking measurements along the way. Today, as forestry engineer Patrick Côté can tell you, forest inventories have become a high-technology endeavour.
Working for a forestry consulting firm based in Magog, Quebec, Patrick currently is a project leader for a team conducting forest inventories for the Province of Quebec. "Today, forest inventories are conducted using geomatic techniques," Patrick explains. What is geomatics? "That's the computer-aided recording, storage and display of spatial information." Patrick's team draws on data obtained mainly from land surveys and satellite remote sensing to develop detailed maps of forested areas. "My area of expertise is numeric cartography. I develop software programs that allow the standardization of resource maps according to provincial or federal norms.
Using these programs, I can input data linked to specific reference points on an electronic map." Having completed a B.Sc. in forest management and environmental studies at Laval University, Patrick is currently taking courses for a master's degree in geomatics. "Combining forestry expertise with computer and geomatics skills is where I see this profession going," he says. Computer skills, research skills, horticultural knowledge (must be able to recognize indigenous plant material in Canadian forests) and knowledge of geomatics are important.