Research

QuantitativeEcology develops research projects centered on quantifying how natural and anthropogenic disturbances shape forested ecosystems and the application of novel quantitative approaches to answer questions regarding these ecosystems. Our research interests include applied statistics, restoration ecology, ecosystem pattern-process interactions, vegetation demographics and dynamics, exploring factors influencing the economics of fire suppression and treatment costs, and emerging technology – specifically mobile devices, open-source hardware, and unmanned aerial systems.

In general, we adopt an open approach to quantitative investigations, working from exploratory data analyses to mathematical-based analytics. Quantitative analyses are, thus, treated more like a proper language than tools and we use this language to enhance our understating of ecological systems.

QuantitativeEcology is a flexible and resilient research lab, open to collaborations with federal and state land management agencies, private institutions, NGOs, other universities, and private companies.

 

Current Research

Mixed-conifer Reference Conditions and Forest Dynamics

Mixed conifer forests of the American Southwest have been impacted similarly to other conifer forests, yet reference condition information vital to restoration is limited. This is especially true with respect to spatial patterns, long term dynamics and the influence of site productivity; information critical [read more…]

Characterizing Spatial Patterns of Trees, Stands, and Forested Landscapes

Moving fire regimes and forest structure towards desired conditions is a central objective for federal land management.  While it is well accepted that forest ecosystem functions and processes are sensitive to tree patterns, particularly in ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer, the scientific basis for spatial patterns within restoration prescriptions is limited [read more…]

Modeling Snag Fall and Coarse Woody Debris Dynamics

Changes in climate and shifts in insect and disease dynamics are expected to result in increased tree mortality, inevitability resulting in increases in snag and downed log populations. These structures are known to serve important roles in biodiversity, trophic chains, forest natural regeneration, nutrient cycling and overall carbon [read more…]

Quantifying Vegetation Structure Using Lightweight Unmanned Aerial Systems

High spatial resolution measurements of vegetation structure in three-dimensions (3D) are essential for accurate estimation of vegetation biomass, carbon accounting, forestry, wildlife habitat, fire hazard evaluation and other land management and scientific applications. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is the current standard for these measurements but requires bulky instruments mounted [read more…]

Factors Influencing the Economics of Restoration, Hazardous Fuels, and Suppression Treatments

Working with economists from the University of Nevada at Reno, we developed a State-and-Transition simulation model of Ponderosa Pine Forest ecosystem of the Southern Colorado Plateau in the western United States and then used it to evaluate and compare the economic efficiency of restoration-based fuel treatments and hazardous fuels-reduction treatments. The choice between restoration-based and hazardous fuels reduction treatments [read more…]

Advancing Forestry Education and Professional Development with Mobile Technology

To address mounting threats and sustain forest systems, competent forestry graduates, who are able to address complex economic, ecological, and social issues involving forest resources, are greatly needed. Forestry is a traditional discipline and therefore finds itself challenged to educate students with 21st century technology and sciences to solve [read more…]

Assessing Landscape-Scale Forest Reference and Current Conditions

NAU’s Quantitative Ecology and Silviculture labs, working with Gilbert Vigil and collaborators proposed development of a three-year, multi-jurisdictional, multi-partner planning process to assess and prioritize ecological needs within the Rio Tusas-Lower San Antonio (RTLSA) landscape of the Carson National Forest (CNF) in Rio Arriba County. Working closely, this collaborative will prioritize treatment areas, develop [read more…]

Assessing Future Ecosystem Services From Managed Native American Forests

Critical ecosystem services from dry western forest agroecosystems face threats but alternative management practices on Native American lands may enhance future ecosystem resilience and ecosystem services. In partnership with two tribes in Arizona and New Mexico, we will test future management scenarios to enhance future ecosystem services. In partnership with tribal managers, we will select representative landscapes for modeling [read more…]