What do you find most interesting about studying forest ecosystems?
Our “Big Plot” program is aimed at understanding how forests work. We use the largest forest plots in the West to examine how forests change and what factors drive those changes. We have a particular interest in the dynamics of large trees, because those individuals contribute the most to forest structure and function. We track the causes of tree mortality, because tree death changes forests much faster than tree establishment or growth. In this time of rapid environmental change, the fate of the Big Trees will determine the fate of the forests.
How does citizen science support your research?
Because we track so many trees (101,236) over such large areas (25 ha plots), we have always relied on citizens and students as an integral part of our research. Everyone can learn to take most of our annual forest data and thereby learn more about the way forests work. We also enjoy teaching more subtle influences on tree development through our work in small teams.
What is one of your favorite moments in the field?
Whether it is sunny, raining, or snowing, my favorite moments are those spent near the big trees.