"We can try and kill all that is native, but spirit howls and wildness endures. Anticipate resurrection"
Terry Tempest Williams, 1994
Our Earth faces immense challenges ahead. As temperatures rise, disturbance regimes are altered, and extreme events increase in frequency, we cannot sit back and watch it happen. We must find solutions together, working in interdisciplinary teams to tackle these wicked problems. In our lab, we use a variety of tools (e.g. big data, spatially-explicit simulation modeling, field studies) to quantify spatial patterns of vegetation, disturbances, and above- and belowground carbon and nitrogen cycling at multiple temporal and spatial scales in terrestrial ecosystems. Our research is often translational using visualization as the bridge between researchers and managers, because we deem it important to conduct applied research that is useful for managers. We thrive on collaboration, especially interdisciplinary collaboration across fields like computer science, immersive technology, philosophy and anthropology, and are always looking for new projects in new locations. Overall, our research is guided by the belief that only through a better understanding of the interactions between biological and physical processes using multiple research methods will we truly determine the best ways to maintain forest sustainability and promote resilience in the face of disturbances and climate change.
Our work focuses on questions like:
1) How do disturbances like wildfire and insects alter trajectories of forest succession and carbon-nitrogen cycling of forests now and under climate change?
2) Which tree species will be “winners” and “losers” under different scenarios of climate change? How does resilience vary spatially across the landscape and which drivers are most important in influencing these spatial and temporally patterns?
3) Which management strategies are most effective for promoting forest resilience after disturbances? Do these strategies remain effective under a changing climate?
In effect, our research tries to find better ways to manage our forests and build forest resilience under our changing climate. Our research uses large spatial datasets, like the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) database developed by USDA Forest Service, to determine how disturbances like wildfire shape current forest condition. Many of our research projects involve the use of spatial modeling, since Dr. Lucash is one of the lead developers of LANDIS-II. The LANDIS-II forest landscape model simulates forest succession and disturbances (e.g., fire, wind, insects) at decadal to multi-century time scales and spatial scales spanning from hundreds to millions of hectares. Our research takes place in many different ecosystems, including the boreal forests of Alaska, boreal forests and alpine areas of Siberia, boreal and mixed hardwoods of MN and WI, coastal forests of OR, mixed coniferous forests in the Klamath Mountains of OR and CA, longleaf pine forests of NC, northern hardwoods of MA and NH, and deciduous forests of UK.
Only by working together can we fight the immense challenges that lie ahead.