Welcome! We are group of field ecologists that share an interest in understanding forest ecosystems. Specifically, we want to know how and why forests change. Robust, quantitative field studies form the core of our approach. Answering these questions is more than just an interesting academic puzzle. As a result of human enterprise (e.g., pollution, land transformations, biotic additions and losses), many forest ecosystems will experience fundamentally novel changes. In the face of this uncertainty, we need to understand the dynamics well enough to anticipate the likely direction and magnitude of responses.

In practice, we conduct field-based, context-dependent research that informs how real ecosystems respond to a changing environment. A major challenge is accounting for confounding influences when the experimental unit is large (e.g., the whole landscape) and the inferential reference is even larger (e.g., an entire region). Our response is to build robust analytical frameworks informed by careful and often extensive field measurements. We believe that our results must be relevant to resource managers and comprehensible to the public. 

"Taming Sierra Flames" SNAMP project featured in Breakthroughs magazine

Updated May 2014

Concerned Forest Hill residents gather for an update on the American Fire, which ultimately burned about 25,000 acres, including some SNAMP study areas (Aug 2013, KCRA-TV)

Since 2004, the SNAMP Science and Public Participation teams have been working to understand how forest vegetation treatments to prevent wildfire affect fire risk, wildlife, forest health, and water, all while developing a new model for engaging the public on land management issues. Their work was profiled in the spring issue of our College of Natural Resources magazine: "Today, as SNAMP reaches the end of a 10-year run, the project has proven to be a multidisciplinary, multiagency, multimedia success that has the potential to transform not only how we view forest fires, but more intriguingly, how scientists, government agencies, and public stakeholders interact in the pursuit of common goals. ...SNAMP's goals went far beyond simply figuring out the best way to slow a wildfire's spread. The experiment proceeded along parallel tracks, studying fire, forest health, fishers, owls, water quality issues, and spatial data. And crucially, public participation wasn't an afterthought or an also-ran, but the key piece of the puzzle.

Spring Research Group News Updated May 2014
Spring semester has been full of good news in the Battles Lab! We are happy to welcome two PhD students in the fall, Joan Dudney and Carmen Tubessing. Carrie Levine has conquered her qualifying exam and advanced to candidacy. Clayton Sodergren was awarded the Babcock Prize, an award to graduating seniors in the College of Natural Resources who have excelled in the discipline of Environmental Science. Jeneya Fertel, with the mentorship of Stella Cousins and John Sanders, recently completed a undergraduate research project entitled "The effect of spring snow regime on tree growth in the Sierra Nevada". And last but not least, Natalie van Doorn and Maya Hayden presented outstanding finishing talks at the ESPM Graduate Symposium! Natalie will soon begin at postdoctoral appointment at UC Davis collaborating with the USFS on urban forest dynamics.
Ecology Outreach Events   Updated May 2014

As ecologists, we know that there is a never-ending supply of things to learn about the forest. So in recent outreach and education activities, PhD student Stella Cousins has been helping get kids started early. In May, Stella teamed up with other ESPM graduate students to host 3rd graders from Malcolm X Elementary for a lesson about fire frequency and severity. Fire tag is a great way to learn about stand density!

The fun and educational open house was also featured in The Berkeley Graduate. Photos above thanks to AIGSA

In April for Cal Day, Berkeley's Student Association for Fire Ecology joined the American Indian Graduate Student Association to host Native American high school students and their families for an intro to the many opportunities at Cal. Graduate students presented hands-on activities about tree rings and drought, cultural use of fire, forest ecology, and even some fire management dress-up!
Benefits of Biomass Burning at Blodgett Updated April 2014

Does the costly work of reducing wildfire risk with fuel treatments have hidden benefits? And can we measure them? Following a series of workshops on forest health and management held at Blodgett Forest Research Station, the Placer County Air Pollution Control District has produced a short video that summarizes pertinent observations, research, and recommendations. A diverse group of resource professionals, researchers, state/federal agency representatives, utility representatives and elected officials, including our very own Rob York and John Battles, provide thoughtful and candid comments.

Check it out at

Evaluating the efficiency of environmental monitoring programs

Updated March 2014

In a recent paper (Ecological Impacts, Vol. 39, pp. 94-101), Carrie Levine and colleagues describe methods for analyzing long-term monitoring data to evaluate whether current monitoring programs are as efficient and effective as possible. This can allow researchers to maximize information gained relative to resources required for data collection. In the paper, the authors describe methods for analyzing data from four types of monitoring schemes: long-term records from a single site, one-time surveys at multiple sites, plot-level sampling, and time-series data from multiple sites. Evaluating long-term monitoring data at regular intervals throughout the monitoring program can help researchers determine whether sampling should be reallocated in space or time to optimize the use of financial and human resources.

Read the full text article:

Image: Biscuit Brook, in the Catskill Mountains of NY. Stream chemistry of the brook has been monitored continuously since 1992. Photo courtesy of NYSDEC.

Reconstructing disturbances - new paper in BioScience

Updated February 2014

Figure 3: Long-term ecosystem carbon state in the context of disturbance regimes.

In Reconstructing Disturbances and Their Biogeochemical Consequences over Multiple Timescales, Kendra McLauchlan and colleagues, including John Battles, overview how disturbances are reconstructed using natural records. Here is the abstract:

Ongoing changes in disturbance regimes are predicted to cause acute changes in ecosystem structure and function in the coming decades, but many aspects of these predictions are uncertain. A key challenge is to improve the predictability of postdisturbance biogeochemical trajectories at the ecosystem level. Ecosystem ecologists and paleoecologists have generated complementary data sets about disturbance (type, severity, frequency) and ecosystem response (net primary productivity, nutrient cycling) spanning decadal to millennial timescales. Here, we take the first steps toward a full integration of these data sets by reviewing how disturbances are reconstructed using dendrochronological and sedimentary archives and by summarizing the conceptual frameworks for carbon, nitrogen, and hydrologic responses to disturbances. Key research priorities include further development of paleoecological techniques that reconstruct both disturbances and terrestrial ecosystem dynamics. In addition, mechanistic detail from disturbance experiments, long-term observations, and chronosequences can help increase the understanding of ecosystem resilience.

Read the full text article at BioScience.



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