Doors opening across Europe thanks to tree talk

Cross border collaboration is helping scientists in Serbia, like researchers Dr Saša Orlović and Dr Dejan Stojanović, to open the doors of cooperation with their colleagues around Europe.

Scientists in Serbia are starting to see an improvement in their situation thanks to  cooperation and collaboration with their counterparts across Europe. Dr Saša Orlović and Dr Dejan Stojanović are two researchers who are reaping the rewards of more contact with academics like them from beyond their borders, thanks to help from COST.

Events in their country’s recent history have meant that opportunities for improvement and knowledge exchange for Serbian scientists have been limited at times. Serbia is not a member of the European Union, meaning that aspects of scientific life possibly taken for granted elsewhere, like studying in and travelling to other countries, can be more difficult.

But becoming part of several COST networks in recent years has opened doors to Dr Orlović and Dr Stojanović.  “Since Serbia is still not part of the EU, we have fewer scientific and travel opportunities compared to colleagues from EU countries,”  says Dr Orlović.

“Valuable international contacts are the key benefit of our participation in COST Actions,”  adds Dr Orlović, a Professor at the Faculty of Agriculture and Head of the Institute of Lowland Forestry and Environment at the University of Novi Sad.  “Especially contacts with scientific institutions in the forestry sector which we would never have been able to get any other way.”

The Institute has taken part in different COST networks over the last decade, with the most prized fruit of their endeavours being Serbia’s first Dendrolab at the university. It’s a laboratory for tree ring research based around a system called ATRICS that scans tree cores in very high resolution. The lab possesses several tree core borers, including a unique one-metre long device for extraordinarily old and thick trees. It was inspired by Dr Stojanović’s first short-term scientific mission to the Slovenian Forestry Institute in Ljubljana in 2013 as part of the COST Action ‘Climate Change and Forest Mitigation and Adaptation in a Polluted Environment’.

“We took the rich experience gained from Dr Tom Levanič, the senior researcher at the  Slovenian Forestry Institute who is also a professor at the University of Ljubljana, and an expert in the field of dendrochronology – the science of dating events and environmental change through studying tree rings. We started going to the field intensively to acquire as many tree samples as we could,”  says Dr Stojanović, a graduate and researcher at the Institute since 2012.  “We would never have established this successful cooperation without the COST funding. We have also introduced colleagues from abroad to our Institute and our country, and our discussions with European researchers from the top of their field have helped us focus our research goals.”

Dr Orlović is a big believer in empowering young researchers to take part in training schools and scientific missions to mature in the industry, and learn from new cultures and individuals. COST supported the Institute through working group meetings, training schools and short term missions as well as financing a training school and one of the Management Committee meetings in the Institute at Novi Sad.

“It is crucial to have the opportunity to challenge your ideas and scientific work concepts with people who excel in your specific field,”  he says.  “It can save months if not years of hard work.”  Much like the tree rings studies, time will inevitably reveal just how important that collaboration has been.

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Last updated: 16 August 2018 top of page