Open Forest exploration – visiting Hyytiälä

Andrea Botero & Markéta Dolejšová  

On September 22nd-24th, we made a short exploratory field trip to the Hyytälä forest and its SMEAR station to collect first data and impressions for Open Forest. Besides walking through the old forest and the managed forest around the SMEAR station, we had the opportunity to chat with some of the scientists working with forest data at the station. We also learned a bit more about what is being collected as our visit was timed to coincide with a micrometeorology course that happened at the station. Our aim was humble – to get a sense of the place, collect stories from local scientists and others working at the station; and get inspiration for the first stage of our project. This “recognizing the terrain” was crucial specially for Markéta, who has never been to the station before.

Aside from these observation activities, we also collected various audio-visual materials and tried out an experimental storytelling walk-through in the SMEAR forest, while engaging remotely our fellow researchers located in Melbourne (AU) and Helsinki (FI). Andrea walked around the forest holding her laptop, running a Zoom meeting with the remote researchers and narrating introductory information and personal stories about the forest. Marketa, connected to the meeting via her mobile phone and using it as an extra camera, was capturing snapshots of the local forest environment to provide visual details of trees and sensors.

Marketa preparing for the walk

Hyytiälä forestry station is a fascinating place, and the open data that comes out of the local research activities, especially those situated in the SMEAR area with its monitoring mast and an array of sensors are perfect occasions to think-with, uncover and speculate on the types of data and stories that scientists, forests and others might exchange with each other. Drawing on our observations from the forest and in our collaboration with the Climate Whirl program (Thanks Ulla!), we will set up an interactive installation/ conversation piece to be showcased at the Research Pavillion #4 Helsinki in Hietsu Paviljonki during summer 2021

The work in Open Forest and Hyytiälä is tied to two existing ongoing research projects (1) the Academy of Finland (AoF) project “Studio|Lab|Forest – From the Lab, the Studio to the Forest, the Garden and Back” (2019-2024) where Andrea Botero is a principal investigator and (2) the EU Horizon 2020 project CreaTures – Creative Practices for Transformational Futures (2020-2022) where Markéta Dolejšová is a post-doctoral researcher.