Statement of purpose:
How can current land management practices account and prepare for future scenarios of landscape change? What are the projected opportunities and threats for maintaining culturally, ecologically, and economically significant processes tied to forested ecosystems? How can scientists help evaluate and inform forward-looking strategies for stewards who lead land use decision making and ecosystem restoration efforts? These questions frame how I view my role as a scientist interested in climate systems and landscape ecology. I seek to apply ecological models that provide outlooks of what landscapes could look like in future decades based on global climate models and simulations of regional management practices and other disturbances. With this skillset, I want to serve in a support role to land managers who have knowledge of local landscape histories and are invested in adaptation strategies for the stewardship of resilient and functional landscapes.
Description of research:
I am a Ph.D. student with the Center for Geospatial Analytics and a research assistant with the Dynamic Ecosystems and Landscape Lab. With this team, I will pursue research to understand the dynamics of oak regeneration in the Southern Appalachians. Much of forested land in the eastern United States has an oak-dominated overstory, but extraction and clearcutting practices have threatened the persistence of oak cover, as well as the complexity and species diversity of these forests. Maintenance of oak cover is important for the regulation of forest water quality, nutrient cycling, and carbon storage. My project will build upon work within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest where researchers have implemented an alternative expanding-gap approach for oak restoration. I will examine the spatial and temporal patterns of oak stand growth and structure within the forest and model the responses to the conditions of canopy openings and other environmental factors. This work will provide an evaluation of the expanding-gap approach and inform understanding of regeneration patterns.
Dr. Robert Scheller (Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, NCSU)