Dr. Ben Spong, a Forest Engineering/Forest Operations Faculty member from West Virginia University in the United States has arrived for an extended research visit to Stellenbosch University’s Department of Forest and Wood Science.
During his sabbatical from the USA, he would like to collaborate with faculty, students, and industrial partners working in the area of forest operations – specifically on logging capacity and productivity topics. While he has a good introduction to Southern African forests from previous short visits, he is excited to have the opportunity to better understand details of the systems, industry culture, and broader social and economic context of South Africa's forest industry.
Dr. Spong has worked in and with the logging industry since 1993 in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, in west and eastern Africa, and in the Mid-Atlantic United States. Through his current work as the Forest Operations Extension Specialist with the Appalachian Hardwood Center at West Virginia University, he has supplied trainings and outreach education programs to loggers, foresters, and many other players in the Eastern United States timber industry.
Dr. Spong's specific programming and research has focused on forest roads, logging best management practices, harvesting systems, logging safety, and logging business management. Dr. Spong participates on many regional committees engaged in improving logging activities, including the West Virginia Forestry Association's Safety Committee, the Mountain Loggers' Safety Initiative, the WV Division of Forestry's Best Management Practices Committee, and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative State Implementation Committee.
His work with these and other networking provides access to small logging contractors, large industrial forestry companies, and state and regional agencies and organizations to help develop and deliver educational and development programming to benefit the wide range of players in the forest products industry. Since joining West Virginia University, Dr. Spong has helped secured close to $1.2 million in external funds to support his research and outreach programs.