!!-Closed-!! PhD GRA Opportunity at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ in the School of Forestry’s Quantitative Ecology Lab

 Update 2/12/2018 – The GRA has been awarded and I am no longer soliciting application materials.

Graduate Research Assistantship (PhD) Opportunity at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ

Data Fusion for Forest Planning and Implementation: Ecological Restoration, Remote Sensing, and Data Analytics

Are you interested in a PhD program that will provide you an opportunity to work in the frequent fire forests of the American Southwest and influence ecological restoration practices? These forests are in dire need of restoration, mainly due to a century of fire exclusion and subsequent, undesirable changes in forest structure and function. For example, the largest collaborative forest restoration project in the US, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), has a goal of implementing restoration treatments on approximately 1M ha of U.S. Forest Service lands in northern Arizona. Fundamental to these efforts are precise data on the amount and distribution of available resources, knowledge of how resources may change over time, and hazard assessments (e.g., wildfire potential); all of which require costly and resource intensive, spatially explicit data. As a result, managers are using more remote sensing data products (e.g., LiDAR), coupled with advanced forest inventory and data analysis techniques, to quantify existing conditions and support broad-scale analysis of forest ecosystems.

A PhD graduate research assistantship is available in the School of Forestry at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, focused on the development and assessment of data fusion techniques that will allow managers to better capitalize on major advancements in remote sensing to utilize more accurate data and enhance precision of landscape-scale analysis (e.g., >100,000 acres) project areas. Working alongside the Ecological Restoration Institute, the USDA Forest Service, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, and Campbell Global; the successful applicant will focus on developing and statistically validating an open source big data, remote sensing, and inventory data fusion platform. This platform will provide enhanced forest structural and compositional information in support of forest resource decision-making.

The selected student will:

  1. Assess and statistically validate algorithms for identifying individual trees and species from remote sensing data of Southwestern forests using new and/or existing stemmapped, area and tree based sample data.
  2. Using these algorithms and data, design and implement a platform that integrates multiple data sources (data fusion) that are typically too large to analyze using traditional methods (big data) to provide detailed forest resource information at the tree-,stand-, and landscape levels.
  3. Assess the accuracy, precision, and statistical properties of forest resource estimates such as bias, consistency, error, spatial uncertainty, and use these to provide improved information for land management decision making.
  4. Apply the platform to Southwestern landscape-scale case studies to; quantify existing conditions, assess low-value biomass product availability, facilitate watershed treatment implementation, and monitor forest restoration treatments.

The position includes a full stipend, tuition waiver, health benefits and field support for 4 years.

Applications from quantitatively minded individuals with a practical approach to solving complex problems are welcome. Experience processing large remote sensing and inventory datasets using C++, R, and/or Python is preferred.

Qualifications:

  • Master’s degree in forestry, geography, ecology, computer science, or related fields.
  • Demonstrable research experience, collaboration abilities, and English (written and oral) communication skills.
  • Competitive GRE scores (top 40th percentile).

 Information about NAU’s graduate program, including eligibility requirements, is available at http://nau.edu/CEFNS/Forestry/Degrees/.

NAU’s formal application deadline is for Fall 2018 is Feb 15 2018 and preferred start date is Summer 2018. However, interested candidates are encouraged to contact with Dr. Sanchez Meador as soon as possible using the information provided below or submit your CV, written statement of interest, and copies of unofficial degree transcripts to initiate a dialog via e-mail.  Andrew.SanchezMeador@nau.edu.

Contact Information:

Dr. Andrew Sánchez Meador 
School of Forestry 
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5018, USA 
Andrew.SanchezMeador@nau.edu 
928-523-3448

Link to announcement PDF

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Flagstaff – Then and Now

I’ve been working on a repeat aerial photography project with NAU’s Cline Library (this is the second part, the first part was (here) and below is an additional proof of concept element for a proposed Hanks Internship that I’m hoping to find a student to work on this fall. The images on the left are based off 0.5m resampled orthoimages for Flagstaff taken in 1959 by Andre M. Faure. The images on the right are corresponding (same resolution, same location) but from 2014. The viewer is based off of Jan Pieter Waagmeester’s Leaflet.Sync plugin and the images (1959 & 2014) are served up by Mapbox.

1959 2014

Click here to open the display as fullscreen!

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Flagstaff in 3D – circa 1959 via A.M. Faure and Cline Library

The following is something I produced as a proof of concept for a proposed Hanks Internship with Cline Library this fall (if you know of any students, please send them my way!). The scene was produced from 122 aerial photographs take by Andre M. Faure in 1959 and covers the majority of Flagstaff, AZ. Faure was a city planner for Tucson from 1941 to 1968. Prior to his arrival in Tucson, Faure served as a planning consultant in Connecticut and a town planner in New Jersey. He worked with the City of Flagstaff and Coconino County on various projects in the 1940s and 1950s. Some of which are aerial photographs of Flagstaff, Williams and Sedona used by Faure for city planning in 1959, and they are available for online viewing in the Colorado Plateau Digital Archives.

Flagstaff – 1959

The Dorothy T. and James J. Hanks Cline Library Endowment supports Northern Arizona University students for research in repeat photography. A primary goal is to locate and document camera stations of photographs held by Special Collections and Archives, with emphasis on images from the Colorado Plateau. Cline Library Hanks Scholars enhance the library’s photographic collections by increasing knowledge and discovery in the natural or social sciences. Hanks Scholars are given a unique opportunity to develop an appreciation of the value of historic photographs and repeat photography. NAU’s Special Collections and Archives is the official repository for the James J. Hanks Collection.

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“Early View” is like Christmas!

I’m extremely happy to say that the following papers are now out in early view – the first two papers are the results of Eryn Schineder’s and Kyle Rodman’s thesis work. For those who may not know, Eryn’s work focused on spatial patterns and reference conditions at the Barney Springs site south of Flagstaff, a pure ponderosa pine site on limestone soils that has managed to avoid being harvested. Truly a unique system to study… Kyle’s work also focused on spatial patterns and reference conditions, but in dry mixed-conifer sites along the Mogollon Rim. He presents a variety of reference attributes that will be interesting and applicable to many of you currently working in dry mixed-conifer forests (especially this findings regarding long-term changes in species composition). I’m am really proud of these two and both works are significant contributions to our knowledge regarding HRV and long-term vegetation dynamics. In case you’re wondering, Eryn and Kyle are both currently pursuing PhDs – Eryn with Andrew Larson at Univ. of Montana and Kyle at Univ. of Colorado at Boulder with Tom Veblen.

Lastly, the third paper presents an idea that Daniel Laughlin, Rob Strahan, Dave Huffman and I have been developing for a while now. In this paper we present a functional (species trait-based) approach to restoring resilient ecosystems in light of changing environmental conditions and explore it’s application in dry mixed-conifer forests (study sites at Black Mesa and on the north rim of Grand Canyon NP). Really exciting work that I’m happy to have been a part of!!!

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A little shameless press…

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Last month’s Journal of Forestry and the Forestry Source Newspaper featuring our article “Implications of diameter caps on multiple forest resource responses in the context of 4FRI: Results from the Forest Vegetation Simulator” and an interview with Dr. Sanchez Meador.

 

Last month, the Forestry Source (the Society of American Foresters’ newspaper) decided to feature one of our recently published articles and the resulting news article included an interview with yours truly. I’ll be the first to admin that while I’m a huge extrovert, I hate giving interviews. The editor did a great job and I’m happy with the way the article turned out. If you’d like to read the new article you can download it here and if you like to read manuscript, which appeared in the Journal of Forestry that same month, you can find it here.

Here’s the citation for the manuscript: Sánchez Meador, A.J., Waring, K.M., and E.L. Kalies. 2015. Implications of diameter caps on multiple forest resource responses in the context of 4FRI: Results from the Forest Vegetation Simulator. Journal of Forestry 113(2) 219-230.

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Continued Scounting of Mixed-Conifer Forests along the Mogollon Rim, AZ

DSC_0040Friday of this past week we (myself, one of my graduate students, members of the ERI Outreach Staff and a Forest Service representative) spent the day scouting potential research sites along the Mogollon Rim, in the mixed-conifer forest type. These forests generally occur at elevations between 8000 to 10,000 feet and under natural conditions, their higher site productivity and open structure facilitates leads to a more diverse (as compared to pondersa pine) understory.

Depending on location and often aspect, Douglas-fir, white fir, blue spruce, and southwestern white pine will dominate the tree canopy, often with ponderosa pine clearly dominating on warmer slopes. Quaking aspen, bigtooth maple, and Gambel oak are also prominent in these forests. Fire histories in mixed-conifer forests vary with forest composition, landscape characteristics and human intervention, but have been shown to be mainly frequent surface fires to infrequent, patchy (yet small) crown fires with return intervals averaging around 10-15 years.

If all goes as planned (when does it?), this could be the location of a new LEARN site!

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Mixed-conifer research site on the San Fransisco Peaks, AZ – Site I

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Over the past two weeks, myself and several ERI staff members were able to establish six one hectare plots in a warm/dry mixed-conifer forest on the southwestern slope of the San Fransisco Peaks, within the boundary of a study area previously examined by Heinlein et al. (2005).

Mixed conifer forests of the American Southwest have been impacted similarly to other conifer forests, yet reference condition information vital to restoration are lacking. This is especially true with respect to spatial patterns, long term dynamics and the influence of site productivity; information critical to informing management decisions. It has been shown that landscape structures such as meadows, discrete tree patches, large trees, and aspen communities have declined as an interlocking understory of shade-tolerant and fire intolerant tree species increased and expanded their ranges, yet the spatial and temporal dynamics associated with these changes are rarely quantified and poorly understood. Our study (Site I of VI in a long-term project) strives to capitalize on existing study sites where fire chronologies have been collected and published, thus allowing for a more complete setting for describing changes in structure and composition.

Overall, this particular site (and the subsequent plot locations) is perfect! The site captures a nice range of contemporary density and species composition, elevation, aspect, and general condition. The site is clearly dominated by ponderosa pine and douglas-fir, but we did encounter quite a bit of large southwestern white pine, aspen, and even a couple of juniper and corkbark fir. Charred evidence and fire scars were everywhere, and the amount of fir and white pine regeneration is impressive…

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