Spring 2018 Global Change Fellow
Statement of purpose:
Forest diseases fundamentally diminish the health and functioning of our valuable forest resources. Among other consequences, the widespread mortality of trees has been shown to adversely affect wildlife habitat, alter soil chemistry, increase wildfire potential, and contribute to economic hardships via quarantine and trade restrictions. Managing these pathogens is important for maintaining healthy ecosystems, but management efforts are often hindered by uncertainty about how treatment location and type affect disease spread. Spatiotemporal projections of disease spread hold tremendous power for analyzing trade-offs of different management scenarios and can serve as a sounding board to stimulate discussions between diverse landowners. My work combines these spatiotemporal projections with participatory modeling methods to analyze management strategies and engage key stakeholders currently managing a destructive forest disease along the Pacific coast.
Description of research:
For my doctoral research, I have been studying the ecology and management of sudden oak death disease, an invasive forest disease which has killed millions of trees along the Pacific coast. Land managers in southwest Oregon are currently facing a new challenge in the form of a newly introduced, and more aggressive, strain of this pathogen. Management to contain the disease is imperative as further disease spread could have sweeping environmental and economic consequences. My work leverages spatiotemporal projections of disease spread to examine tradeoffs of disease management scenarios. One aspect of my work focuses on refining these models to reflect local conditions and using them to evaluate the strategies outlined in the Oregon Department of Forestry’s strategic action plan. The other component of my research focuses on how we can engage stakeholders by linking these disease spread models to Tangible Landscape, a decision support tool that allows stakeholders to intuitively interact with complex geospatial models. With a team of interdisciplinary researchers, we plan to hold a series of participatory modeling workshops with a diverse group of regional stakeholders to generate and test disease management scenarios. This research falls under the fourth theme of the Southeast Climate Center: Ecological Research and Modeling.