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Sabbaticals bring exciting innovations to forest research

NORTH CAROLINA — Three Forest Service scientists will be expanding on current research or focusing on new or emerging research as recipients of the Southern Research Station sabbatical program. The sabbaticals will give these researchers the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from around the world.

“The sabbatical will afford each of the scientists an opportunity to be creative and innovative, which will result in exponential benefits to the Forest Service, the environment and society,” said Rob Doudrick, SRS station director.

Devendra Amata is a research hydrologist based on the Santee Experimental Forest in Cordesville, South Carolina. His sabbatical will focus on ecohydrology of tidal forested wetlands, the interface between marine and terrestrial ecosystems directly impacted by sea level rise and extreme climatic events.

“This sabbatical will give me the opportunity to work with researchers at the University of Antwerp in Belgium,” said Amatya. This research is important since little is known about the ecohydrological processes and models, functions and ecosystem services provided by these important tidal wetlands, a common feature of the rapidly urbanizing landscapes of the southeastern Atlantic coastal plain.

Chung-Yun Hse is a research forest products technologist based in Pineville, Louisiana. Hse plans to expand on his work with the fractionation and separation of lignocellulosic biomass components based on microwave technology. “I will be working with colleagues at the Beijing Forestry University in China to see if practical applications can be developed to create spinning fibers from the cellulosic fractions obtained with these microwave methods,” said Hse.

He has developed prototype methods to separate woody material into component cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin fractions in ways that are environmentally friendly and with high-quality yield. “This has potential for industrial development of a new source for high-quality fibers, and I am so grateful for the sabbatical and the opportunity to expand my research,” he added.

Tom Elder, a research scientist based in Auburn, Alabama, will explore ways to minimize or remove the presence of chromophores in wood pulp. Chromophores, produced in pulp processing, discolor the pulp and require costly additional processing steps with bleaching agents to remove in order to produce the highest-quality white pulp.

“The sabbatical will provide the time I need to work on and examine methods to prevent or minimize the development of chromophores when pulp is processed,” said Elder. “During the sabbatical I will continue existing collaborations with BOKU University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria — a global leader in chromophore chemistry.”

Photo: Portrait.
Devendra Amatya plans to focus on forested tidal wetlands ecohydrology and develop new skills in tidal hydrologic monitoring. Forest Service photo.
Photo: Portrait.
Chung-Yun Hse will work with colleagues at the Beijing Forestry University to expand his current research on the fractionation and separation of lignocellulosic biomass. Forest Service photo.
Photo: Portrait.
Tom Elder’s sabbatical will allow him to explore ways to minimize or remove the presence of chromophores in wood pulp. Forest Service photo.