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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)

Click on the tabs related to the various research topics for more details.
The above topics are mostly in Peterson’s domain; current grad students Jeff Cannon and Uma Nagendra (more details on the ‘people’ page) are investigating the interaction of wind and fire disturbance, and how wind disturbance influences plant-soil feedbacks, respectively.  In addition, current undergrads in our lab are Michael Bailey, Somer Rowe, and Susie Nuttall.
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, Fall 2014

We are interested in having at least one new graduate student in Fall 2014.  Right now the areas in which we’d most like to see a new person focus are 1) carbon cycling in wind disturbed areas; 2) biomechanics of tree strength/stability; 3) response of herbaceous plant species to wind disturbance; or 4) the interface between forest wind disturbance and meteorology (potentially co-advised by meteorology colleagues).