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Science Spotlights

There is new methodology for fitting ecologically feasible “shapes” to time series of Landsat imagery for modeling, mapping, and monitoring annual forest disturbance dynamics. Through a case study of fire, harvest and bark beetle outbreak, scientists illustrate how resultant fitted values and parameters can be fed into empirical models to map disturbance causal agent and tree canopy cover changes coincident with disturbance events through time.
Northern goshawk nestlings
The elusive northern goshawk, its forest habitats, and the habitats of its bird and mammal prey are significant conservation issues related to the management of forests throughout the hawk’s North American range.  The Rocky Mountain Research Station has been enumerating the population size and documenting the population ecology and demography of individual goshawks on Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau for 20 years with the objective of identifying the...
High severity burned patch from the 2011 Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona.
This research evaluates the use of citizen science in a region with increased stress from ongoing drought and wildfires. Researchers show how it allows for inexpensive and statistically rigorous monitoring, and fosters greater local involvement in science and conservation. This information will be used to determine optimal protocols for a long-term monitoring plan. Inexpensive and statistically rigorous long-term monitoring fosters local...
Westslope cutthroat trout, native to the Columbia River and upper Missouri River hybridize with introduced rainbow trout and have been extirpated from large portions of their historical range.
Hybridization between westslope cutthroat trout and both rainbow trout and Yellowstone cutthroat trout is a major conservation concern for the species.  A new broad-scale analysis of hybridization patterns found many pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout in headwaters streams.
View of active fire burning surface fuels in a prescribed burn block at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on February 6, 2011. The overstory is dominated by fire-dependent longleaf pine (photo credit: Andrew T. Hudak).
Build-up of woody and herbaceous fuels increases the risk of hazardous wildfires. Using airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) scientists are examining fuel build up between wildfires to examine the relationship between surface fuels and fire energy. By integrating the repeated measures of heat flux imaged over the whole duration of a fire, the total energy released was mapped across an entire burn area. Airborne remote sensing provides...
Fig. 4. Imputations of trees per hectare (a), basal area (b) and dominant tree species (c) from airborne lidar across Eglin AFB, and Plot ID (d) imputed as an ancillary variable (i.e., having no weight in the model). This model used for mapping was based
Forest, fuel, and fire management strategies and decisions applied at the scale of forest stands influence not just the tree overstory but also understory plant composition and structure. Understory plants and forest floor materials constitute the surface fuels burned in prescribed fires. Researchers associated LiDAR data from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida with field plot data and fire management records.
The mountain pine beetle has its very own microbiome, or community of organism that share its space. Scientists studied the fungal and mite aspects of the mountain pine beetle microbiome as the beetles attacked host trees ranging in elevations of 1800 to 3000 meters in the Roosevelt Forest in Colorado. Gaining a better understanding of the mountain pine beetle microbiome at different beetle population levels will help scientists understand the...
Research Forester Emily Heyerdahl prepares samples for archiving (photo by Roger Pilkington).
The Rocky Mountain Research Station is preparing more than 16,000 tree-ring specimens for permanent archiving. Each specimen is a unique record of the environmental conditions from which it came. This tree-ring specimen collection will be permanently archived at the only federally recognized tree-ring repository in the U.S., where its importance will grow as it is used in ways we cannot currently imagine.
Pinyon jays perched atop berry-laden juniper tree.
Over the past century, many pinyon-juniper woodlands in the Great Basin have expanded their range and increased their stand densities. These changes in structure and extent have effects on both the species that use the woodlands and to species whose habitat is being encroached by them. We observed and described where pinyon jays prefer to cache seeds in order to gain an understanding on how and where expansion and infill is likely to occur and...
Cross section of a dead Utah juniper.
Annual precision of tree-ring data is often sought for detailed analyses. Important, widespread species such as ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir are often used for tree-ring science. However, there are other low elevation species, oftentimes termed woodland trees that could also be useful, including Utah juniper.