Research

Our research questions

Is the nature of forest fires changing in a warming world? Are forests responding to disturbances differently than they have in the past? If so, how will these changes feedback to future disturbances such as fire and insect outbreaks?  How are forests affected by the interaction of multiple disturbances (e.g., two successive fires, or insect outbreaks + fire)? How do these dynamics change over spatial and temporal scales? How can forest management shape forest trajectories and disturbance susceptibility?

These are just a few of the interesting research questions we ask in the Harvey Lab, where our core mission is to conduct cutting-edge scientific research in forest/landscape/disturbance ecology that can further our understanding of the nature of forest ecosystems and inform effective forest management across public and private lands.

Our current research projects 

(click on each project for more info)

Unlocking insights about old-growth forests, insect outbreaks, and interactions with wildfire from 80-years of permanent plot records

Understanding how shortened fire-return intervals and warming temperatures will affect serotinous (closed cone) pine forests across gradients

Tracking changes in spatial patterns of fires in the Northwest US by connecting direct field measures to satellite indices of burn severity

Forest Fire ecology in the Pacific Northwest: Eastside vs. westside of the cascades

Understanding the causes and consequences of subalpine fir mortality in the US Rocky Mountains

Our approaches

In our research we use a variety of tools and methods, letting the interesting and important questions guide our approach. We strive to connect insights across spatial scales (e.g., trees –> tree-neighborhoods –> forest stands –> watersheds –> regions), temporal scales (e.g., hours –> days –> weeks –> years –> decades –> centuries), and gradients (e.g., elevation, land use, management context). Doing so allows us to link a deep understanding of natural history born in the field with “big data” streams available from networks of satellites and sensors.

ResearchMethodsApproach_wide

Our study areas

Our research is primarily focused in conifer forests of western North America (with particular focus on forests in the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest), where forests span gradients in: elevation ranging from sea level to ~3500 m; human influence from heavily-managed plantations to protected wilderness; biophysical settings from rainforests to dry woodlands; and disturbance regimes from frequent (e.g., decadal) low-severity fires to infrequent (e.g., many centuries) high-severity fires. We utilize long-term research sites (e.g., NSF Long-term Ecological Research stations and USFS Experimental Forests), extensive networks of field plots across the western US, and publicly available geospatial data (e.g., satellite burn severity maps).