From an electronic woodhound that can sniff out uniquely applied scents identifying logs to a near infrared device that can “see” the density of wood chips on the fly to acoustic equipment that can “hear” wood qualities in a tree, technology is fast changing the shape of forestry. Professor Glen Murphy (Forest Engineering) is at the forefront of these high-tech changes.
It’s perhaps a surprising twist for someone who developed an early love of the outdoors by spending time with his family in a decidedly traditional occupation in the woods of Australia. “My grandfather worked one of the last oxen logging teams in New South Wales and I used to wander around in the forest with him,” says Murphy.
Dr. Murphy didn’t begin his academic career believing he would study forestry. “When I went through high school, like most people, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. At one point, I was thinking of being an economics teacher or possibly even a veterinarian. On the college forms we filled out, I had to put down a third interest (in addition to economics and veterinary medicine) and I chose forestry, which is something I didn’t know much about at the time, but choosing forestry, I have never regretted it.”
After graduating from Australian National University in 1974 with a degree in forest management, Murphy went to work for the New Zealand Forest Research Institute studying steep terrain harvesting systems, though he came to Oregon both in 1979 to complete an internship at Weyerhaeuser in Springfield and in 1984 to OSU to earn his doctorate in forest engineering. On a trip to Oregon in 2000, he learned that his favorite professor, Eldon Olsen, was retiring and applied for the job opening. He came to OSU in 2001, and is pleased to be working in his former professor’s old office.
Much of Dr. Murphy’s current research involves the use of technology to more effectively capture the value of the timber harvested. His recent projects, dealing in scent identification for tracking aroma-tagged logs and infrared and acoustic means for determining wood composition, may be only the tip of the technological iceberg. Both here and in other parts of the world, the timber industry is moving more and more toward mechanization in its tree harvesting processes.
“A harvester can be sitting on a landing, and when it delimbs the logs, there is a chance to measure a larger range of properties than we previously could, with a higher level of sophistication than we used to have. It gives us the opportunity to buck wood to the optimum value and sell wood to the best markets,” something, he says, is important for the success of forestry in the Pacific Northwest.
“My main focus is to help the forest sector remain competitive in a marketplace that is becoming increasingly global.”
Click below to find out more about Glen Murphy’s research
Bio of Glen Murphy written by Bryan Bernart, Editorial Assistant, Forestry Communications Group, College of Forestry