Field trip to research sites spurred important management conversations

Carmen Tubbesing and John Battles helped organize a field trip to the Last Chance site of the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP) to discuss recent research results with a diverse group. There were over 30 attendees, including local Forest Service district rangers and foresters,  Cooperative Extension advisors, non-profit groups, media, lumber production industry representatives, and other local stakeholders.

We visited sites that were treated with fuel reduction treatments, monitored, burned in the 2013 American Fire, and re-measured. This provided a great opportunity to learn about how fuel treatments affect forests and fire resiliency. The group discussed on-the-ground applications of forest research and the challenges that go along with it.

This field trip was possible because of the Graduate Students in Extension (GSE) fellowship, which awarded Carmen a fellowship for her to broaden the audience reached by her research results. Susie Kocher, a UC Cooperate Extension Advisor and Carmen’s GSE mentor, was instrumental in planning  and executing the field trip, as was Vic Lyon, District Ranger of the American River Ranger District.

Carmen, Dr. Battles, and Vic Lyon presenting to the group


Carmen presenting results of her regeneration study to field trip attendees

Congratulations to our recent graduates!

Drs. Stella Cousins and Carrie Levine both received their PhDs and have moved on to new and exciting opportunities.

Dr. Cousins graduated in August of 2016, with the dissertation “Causes and consequences of tree growth, injury, and decay in Sierra Nevada forest ecosystems.” She is now a Postdoctoral Fellow with Matthew Potts of UC Berkeley and Andrew Gray of the USFS Pacific Northwest Forest Inventory & Analysis Program.

Dr. Levine graduated in May 2017. Her dissertation is entitled “Forest resilience measured: Using a multi-timescale approach to quantify forest resilience in a changing world.” She is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis in the Safford lab.

Carmen selected for Graduate Research Innovation Award

Carmen in one of her field plots during a recent outreach field trip.

Carmen was awarded the Graduate Research Innovation Award (GRIN), a $25,000 competitive grant for fire science research administered by the national Joint Fire Science Program.

Carmen’s project, “Predicting forest recovery following high-severity fire” combines field measurements and simulation modeling to help answer an important question about the future of California’s forests: how long will it take for forests to grow back after our most severe fires?

The GRIN will help Carmen expand her field measurements, and will help her to increase forest managers’ access and engagement with her work.


Joan Dudney awarded the Switzer Fellowship!

Joan Dudney was awarded the prestigious Switzer Fellowship! Twenty fellows were chosen to join the ranks of over 600 Fellows whose leadership efforts are creating innovating environmental solutions across the globe. Joan is honored to be chosen as a Switzer Fellow, and aims to use her award to further her research efforts on white pine health in the Sierra Nevada. For more info, see the ESPM Grad News announcement.


Left: Joan Dudney measures DBH (diameter at breast height) of a dead foxtail pine, an endemic species in California that may be threatened by climate change and mountain pine beetle attacks.

Carrie Levine’s ground-breaking paper makes big waves!

Congratulations to Carrie Levine for publishing a ground-breaking study! Levine’s paper refutes previous research that was the basis for a lawsuit against restoration efforts following the Rim Fire.

Carrie’s paper, published in Ecological Applications, highlighted critical flaws in previous analyses that led to erroneous conclusions about Sierra forest density.

Her work provides a corrected and accurate description of forest density, which will help inform future management and restoration in the Sierra Nevada. For more information see the Berkeley news report!And the Friday Flash e-news report!

Study refutes findings behind challenge to Sierra Nevada forest restoration

Joan Dudney awarded Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship


Each year, The Wilderness Society honors one graduate student across the United States to receive the Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship. The scholarship was created in honor of Gloria Barron, who was a tireless advocate for wilderness protection. Joan’s research in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks aims to continue her legacy of wilderness protection. Joan’s dissertation is focused on white pine health from low elevation sugar pines to the highest elevation whitebark pines. Joan is thrilled to help continue Gloria Barron’s legacy as she continues to pursue cutting-edge science aimed to inform effective wilderness management.



Dudney wins second place in Berkeley’s Grad Slam

Dudney, middle, wins second place!

Joan Dudney wins second place at the UC Berkeley-wide Grad Slam competition! Each year, students from every department can submit a three minute speech on their dissertation research. The challenge: make your research engage a broad audience. The goal of Grad Slam is to provide “emerging scientists and scholars with the skills to engage the public in their work.” Dudney was one of eight selected for the semi-finals in March and finished in second place in the finals, winning $1,000 for her efforts.

Teaching awards!

ConCarrie Teaching cropgratulations to Carrie Levine and Joan Dudney for receiving UC Berkeley’s Outstanding 2016 Graduate Student Instructor Award. Carrie was acknowledge for her work in ESPM 100ES: Introduction to Methods in Environmental Science. This is a required class exclusively for juniors in Environmental Science. Methods are rarely the most interesting topic of study but essential to good science. Carrie’ was noted for her aptitude in mentoring young scientists: “She helped students to think for themselves – a key goal of this course – while also holding them accountable for Joan teachingmaking the effort.” Joan earned her award for her teaching in ESPM C11: Americans and the Global Forests. This introductory course challenges students to think about how natural resource management and human values affect  forest ecosystems around the world. Joan’s nomination letter praised her ability to connect with the diverse students who take this course and to inspire them to think more carefully about the natural world.

Old-growth forest dynamics in the Sierra Nevada

Lab members past and present collaborated on a recent paper documenting ecosystem dynamics and tree demography over the past half-century. In the mid-1950’s Professor Frederick Baker (former Cal Forestry School Dean) established a 4 ha mapped stand of old-growth mixed conifer forest in northern California. In 1996, Jolie-Ann Ansley re-established the “Baker Plot” and we have been following the dynamics since.

Changes in relative dominance of trees >24 cm DBH by species (1957-2013) and the total basal area increase over the 56-year study period. Relative dominance is defined as the proportion of total basal area for that species.

The most recent paper in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Levine et al. (In press) found that despite a warming climate, stand density, basal area, and carbon have increased over 56 years. Fir recruitment and growth significantly exceeded the community-level median rates, while pine recruitment and growth was significantly lower than the community-level median. Shifts in species composition from a well-mixed stand to a more dense fir-dominated stand appear to be driven by low growth and recruitment rates of pines relative to firs.