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It’s tempting to say our lab studies any aspect of wind disturbance to trees and forests.  That would be a slight exaggeration, but in fact we are pursuing work along several fronts.  For many years our lab’s focus was on tree and neighborhood scale patterns of wind damage, and community-level patterns (e.g. species composition & diversity, interactions with herbivores and mycorrhizae) of forest recovery after wind disturbance.  Those two topics continue to get attention today, but in the last few years we have added several other threads (for details see our lab ‘research’ page):

  1. Impacts of salvage logging after wind disturbance on forest diversity, health and speed of recovery.
  2. Effects of wind disturbance on carbon cycling
  3. Using forest wind damage patterns to investigate tornado behavior
  4. Winching studies to directly measure tree windfirmness
  5. Landscape-scale patterns of damage from wind (e.g. patch size, spatial pattern, and relation to topography)

Our approaches include field experiments and descriptive studies; greenhouse experiments; GIS analysis of satellite and air photos; and computer simulations.

The Tropical Work

For a little more than a decade (1996 – 2009), Peterson was also studying tropical wet forest regeneration in abandoned pastures.  That work was based at the Las Cruces Biological Station (LCBS) in southern Costa Rica.  While that research was interesting and enjoyable in many ways, limited time and especially an absence of grant funding required disengaging from the regeneration project in 2010.  Nevertheless, Peterson retains a toehold in the tropics via collaboration with LCBS director Zak Zahawi, to maintain a 2.25 ha mapped and tagged Forest Dynamics Plot in the primary forest at LCBS.  Former students from the Peterson lab who did tropical work for their thesis or dissertation include Steve Panfil, Luanna Prevost, Chris Graham, and Anna Sugiyama.

Possible New Students

M.S. Assistantship: Study of wind resistance of southeastern pine species

The Dept. of Plant Biology at the University of Georgia and the landscape ecology lab at the Jones Center at Ichauway are seeking applicants for a M.S. assistantship to investigate wind resistance of southeastern tree species. The position is available starting fall semester, 2020 with the potential to begin as a paid seasonal field technician in summer 2020. Funding is provided for at least two years, and consists of a competitive stipend plus six semesters of instate tuition.

The student will conduct field-based winching experiments on southeastern pine species as well as investigate the impacts of precipitation on wind resistance. The ultimate objectives of the study are to provide new knowledge regarding risk of hurricane damage to pines, and guide decisions on forest management and restoration. The research will combine experimental tree winching with soil moisture manipulation to mimic the effects of hurricanes. While the applicant would be an M.S. student in the Dept. of Plant Biology at Univ. of Georgia, the work would be co-sponsored by the Jones Center at Ichauway, and the field work would take place in southwestern Georgia at the Jones Center, a privately-funded 28,500-acre research facility and preserve in Newton, Georgia. The successful applicant will be expected to spend much of the summer field season in residence at the Jones Center where limited housing may be provided, while the academic year will be predominantly on the UGA Athens campus completing coursework. The M.S. degree will be coadvised by Dr. Jeffery Cannon at the Jones Center (http://www.jonesctr.org/about/staff/cannon.php), and Dr. Chris Peterson in the Dept. of Plant Biology at UGA (http://research.franklin.uga.edu/cjpeterson/).

Successful applicants will have the ability to participate, organize, and manage field research efforts, and have strong quantitative and writing skills. The project will involve mechanical winching of trees, thus the successful candidate must be willing to conduct strenuous physical activity (climbing, and lifting) under demanding field conditions (heat, high humidity, heights, and insects). Candidate will participate in tree climbing with safety gear up to 35 feet. Applicants with undergraduate research experience or fieldwork experience in forest ecology, biology, or a closely related discipline are preferred.

To apply, submit a CV, transcripts, GRE scores, contact information for three references, writing sample, and letter of interest via e-mail to: Chris Peterson, Professor, Dept. of Plant Biology, Univ. of Georgia (chris@plantbio.uga.edu). Applications received by February 10, 2020 will receive full consideration, and preference may be given to those that can begin work as a seasonal field technician as early as summer 2020. Candidates must also apply to the University of Georgia graduate school and must meet all requirements of the Graduate School. See https://grad.uga.edu/index.php/prospective-students/domestic-application-information/requirements/application-procedures/ for details.