Present-day forest management goals are complex and elusive because objectives are multi-faceted and may include simultaneously producing or maintaining sense-of-place, old growth, forest products and enhancing or protecting water resources and wildlife habitat while increasing the ability to adapt to disturbance. My broad research program focus, is to develop integrated management strategies that have application for objectives including, but not limited to, producing forest products, installing fuel treatments, creating disturbance resilient and resistant forests, enhancing or creating wildlife habitat, restoring forests, and developing old forest conditions. To develop management strategies that can adapt to disturbance, also requires research on pre- and post-disturbance environments to develop fuel or other forest management treatments to encourage rapid recovery or promote adaptation to disturbances such as wildfire. To evaluate the treatments I develop, I use an experimental forest network in partnership with forest managers to determine economic and operational feasibility of implementing treatments followed by monitoring vegetation response in accordance with desired wildlife habitat components such as snags, woody debris and plant production, growth and yield of trees, and diversity in species composition and forest conditions. The advantage of my research being implemented on an experimental forest provides numerous benefits, the most important benefit is that this place-based research gives future scientists, managers, landowners, and people of all ages and backgrounds a place to learn about forest ecology and management.
My interest involves discovering and describing natural phenomena but also demands that such discoveries be integrated into silvicultural methods (vegetation and forest floor treatments) and systems (planned series of treatments through time) and be tested across multiple spatial scales and within multiple forest structures and compositions. Although silvicultural methods and systems are well developed for producting forest products, they are ill defined or non-existent when it comes to treating fuels, providing sense-of-place, maintaining wildlife habitat, or managing for other societal values both known and unforeseen.
Contrary to traditional thinking that western white pine can only grow in large openings, I discovered the species can establish and grow within many different sized canopy gaps. This discovery subsequently led to developing canopy opening thresholds (i.e., establishment, competitive advantage, and free-to-grow) for the species to explicitly aid in management decisions and applications. The impact of this research has resulted in consensus building among the differing management philosophies of stakeholders and forest managers. I used my canopy opeing knowledge discovery to produce silvicultural systems to create a diversity of forest structures and compositions within and among landscapes. Contrary to applying treatments at a stand scale (~10 ha), the systems I designed are applicable for treating landscapes, a rarity in science of silviculture.
In this field of science, because it is so diverse, I have been involved in studies associated with maintaining long-term soil productivity, implimenting and understanding the benefits and trade-offs of mastication, and devoping treatment strategies for restoring old ponderosa pine and western larch.
My goal in my job is not to succeed personally as a research scientist. I work for the citizens of the United State; thus I think it is very important to focus on applied science that is applicable to managers, forest landowners and the public. Thus the greatest compliment I receive is when managers or citizens come to me and say you taught me something and you are making a difference in the future of our forests. Only then do I know I am on the right track. Thus the results of my research studies are applicable for, but are not limited to, restoring forests, producing wildlife habitat, and for treating fuels to modify wildfire behavior and burn severity throughout the western United States. However, the concepts I introduce also have a wider range of application beyond the western United States; for example, some of these concepts are being included in a new document called Research to Practice through the European Research Institute.