Northern Research Station
Hello, I’m Tony Ferguson, Director of the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station. Once again, I am proud to showcase our leading edge science that supports land management decisions across all lands.
For almost 3 years, it has been my privilege to serve as Director of the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station. As I have met with our many stakeholders, I have heard their need for science they can use to improve the health and resilience of forests and grasslands to ensure that these lands continue to produce clean water, clean the air, and give people a place to enjoy forest-based recreation. Increasingly, the Station is working with all of our stakeholders on research that fosters rural prosperity and economic development.
This past year, we hosted ‘Town Hall Meetings’ and invited our partners and collaborators to tell us about their research needs and land management challenges. We listened. We responded. We are using this information to position the Northern Research Station to address the conservation issues not only of today, but into the future.
Going forward, I’m personally committed to providing safe and vibrant work environments where every employee feels valued and respected. The delivery of our mission and the productivity of our entire team depends on an environment free of harassment and discrimination.
Northern Research Station Locations
Improving Forest Conditions
Each of our scientific discoveries provides greater insight into improving the condition of forests and grasslands, and ultimately improving people’s lives. Recent breakthroughs in Forest Service science and technology are providing new tools for understanding and improving forest sustainability.
Red spruce was once a valued timber species but was threatened by acid deposition, which reduced its growth and increased mortality for this sensitive species. A Northern Research Station (NRS) scientist and partners set out to establish whether red spruce is rebounding 20 years after Clean Air Act mandates, and if so, why?
A warmer future may lead to a common midwestern songbird becoming considerably less common because nesting success is predicted to decline with warmer temperatures. Scientists discovered that climate warming can affect species through complex effects on their population ecology and not simply by causing species to move north.
Droughts are natural disturbances that can cause negative effects on natural ecosystems and also have important social and economic consequences. Researchers are helping land managers prepare for changing climate conditions by developing projections of how drought may change in the future.
More than three decades of work on restoration of its nesting habitat has resulted in the recovery of Kirtland’s warbler, a bird that flew close to extinction. Can these gains in nesting habitat be maintained under future climate conditions? Model results suggest most jack pine forests within the core breeding range will remain resilient to changing climate, but jack pine distribution will contract elsewhere in the Lake States.
Trace metal pollutants from the atmosphere may affect water resources on vastly different timescales. Lead from before the 1980s still leaches from peatlands, while mercury appears to largely originate from recent deposition.
The rate of carbon sequestration in forests is projected to decline in the decades ahead, largely because more forest land will be developed and today’s aging forests sequester less carbon. In a first-of-its-kind analysis, Northern Research Station scientists and University of Michigan partners have found that forest soils can potentially sequester two billion tons of carbon this century with increased reforestation efforts.
Over recent decades, dissolved organic carbon concentrations (DOC) in lakes and streams have increased through the northern hemisphere, leading to concerns about changes in drinking water quality and about productivity of these aquatic ecosystems. Scientists paired a novel technique and long-term studies to explore this phenomenon and develop insight that can be used to improve water quality.
Despite landowners’ uncertainty about long-term outcomes near a pine barrens restoration project on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, they support management actions and trust USDA Forest Service staff.
There is no doubt that the nation’s forest resources face unprecedented challenges. From developing tools to predict dangerous fire weather conditions and better describe the wildland-urban interface to our scientific advancements in understanding invasive species, the Northern Research Station is a leader in providing the science-based tools land managers need to manage forestlands for changing conditions, whether it is drought, extreme precipitation, wildfire, disease, or invasive insects and plants.
Wind fields in the vicinity of wildland fires can be highly variable or turbulent, exhibiting significant gusts that can lead to erratic fire behavior and enhanced mixing of smoke into the atmosphere. Northern Research Station scientists are examining the properties of turbulent circulations in forested wildland fire environments to ultimately improve predictive tools for fire and smoke management.
The wildland-urban interface (WUI), where homes meet or intermingle with undeveloped forests and grasslands, is a critical area for wildfire and natural resource management. Both the number of homes in the WUI and total footprint of the WUI grew rapidly from 1990 to 2010, with broad implications for wildfire management and other natural resource management issues.
Fire weather forecasters need accurate and proven tools to help them anticipate when weather conditions can make wildfires dangerous for fire managers. USDA Forest Service scientists are expanding the options with the development of the Hot-Dry-Windy Index (HDW), a new fire-weather prediction tool based on the key atmospheric variables that affect wildland fire: temperature, moisture, and wind.
Forest managers can use insecticide treatments to protect ash trees from emerald ash borer to conserve the genetic diversity of ash. But which trees should be protected? Research at the Allegheny National Forest is underway to develop new strategies to conserve ash tree diversity.
Working across natural resource agencies, researchers have collaborated to build new tools that benefit state and federal agencies in efforts to eradicate the invasive Asian longhorned beetle (ALB).
International export of oak logs from the United States requires fumigation of the logs with methyl bromide. However, methyl bromide causes severe damage to the Earth’s ozone layer. Scientists recently discovered that using vacuum steam heat to treat oak logs kills the oak wilt fungus and is environmentally friendly.
Since it was discovered in New York State in 2006, white-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats and may have spread as far west as Washington State. But Northern Research Station scientists discovered that the fungus behind white-nose syndrome may have an Achilles' heel: ultraviolet light.