My current research studies include developing field-based developmental models for various bark beetles to develop predictive models and use these for examining changes in population dynamics under a climate change scenarios. I am also conducting studies on the interactions between bark beetle-caused mortality and subsequent fire occurrence, down woody debris accumulations, impacts on foliar moisture, and fire behavior modeling. Other studies include biological aspects of mountain pine beetle in Colorado, which has been very little studied, such as the role of of parent adults in population biology, flight under different stand conditions, phloem consumption, quantification of brood production from trees growing under different densities. I am also examining questions on host transition by mountain pine beetle and the genetic structure of beetles emerging from different hosts and outbreak locations.
Future direction of my work is the biology, ecology, and management of western bark beetles under climate change. Continuing basic biology field studies, the examination of questions relating host transitions and the genetic structure of populations.
Although there is abundant literature on many aspects of the biology and ecology of the major bark beetles, such as mountain pine beetle in lodgepole pine forests, little is known about other important species in other forest types. These insects play significant roles on the ecology of western forest ecosystems and interact with other agents, such as fire, blowdown events, and defoliation. How these insects will behave under a climate change scenario is not well understood and is likely to raise the need to re-examine biological parameters and interactions with forest conditions and stand susceptibility. Although these organisms are integral components of the ecology of western forests, insect-caused mortality often comes in conflict with land manager objectives and impact other ecosystem services. The need to better understand the ecology of these insects and how managers may need to respond, in particular on a climate change scenario, is needed.
The main reasons that make this research relevant include; first, advancing the understanding and science about bark beetles, which as part of natural ecosystems, are major factors in regulating forest composition and structure, primary productivity, and interactions with other disturbance agents such as fire, defoliation, pathogens, and blowdown events; second, providing tools for forest managers for addressing insect-caused mortality in high-value scenarios such as campgrounds, recreation areas, and ski areas; third, the ecology of these organisms will be strongly influenced by climate change and understanding these processes will allow developing mitigation and adaptation strategies where appropriate.