Novus Scientist Exchange Program Site Visits: John Calder and Dr. Jonathan Thompson

We are pleased to report on the first of our eight scientist exchange program (SEP) site visits! In February 2015 , PhD candidate John Calder (University of Wyoming, in the lab of Bryan Shuman) visited Dr. Jonathan Thompson (Harvard University).

The project, titled “Modeling subalpine forest responses to fire and climate change throughout the Medieval Climate Anomaly,” planned to use the LANDIS-II vegetation model to reconstruct factors affecting fire intensity (measured here as area burned) in subalpine regions of northern Colorado. Pollen reconstructions in this area indicate a shift to more open forest structure concurrent with reductions in burn area during the Medieval Climate Anomaly. The team hoped to assess the feedbacks of vegetation type (particularly fuel stocks) and climate on fire regimes in subalpine Colorado. In addition to reconstructing the paleoecology of this region, this work may also inform future fire disturbance predictions by better understanding potential vegetation feedback limitations on future fire-climate scenarios. The team will test a variety of hypotheses, and they predict that changes in vegetation structure following fire created alterations in fuel structure that limited burn area of subsequent fires.

During the SEP visit, Calder and Dr. Thompson parameterized the LANDIS-II model and developed the simulation experiments for their analysis. Multiple simulations will be structured to test a variety of hypotheses, using the Dynamic Fire and Fuels (DFF) extension to LANDIS-II. Currently, the team is still working to test assumptions of LANDIS-II and the DFF extension, to ensure this model adequately represents fire regimes in this system. Once these tests are complete, the simulations will be run to assess the validity of each hypothesis. Once completed, the results will be published, and make up a chapter of Calder’s dissertation.

In their interaction reports, both Calder and Dr. Thompson indicated the SEP was beneficial and enjoyable. When asked about their overall satisfaction with being involved in this program, Dr. Thompson responded “Very satisfied. It was a great opportunity that could not have happened without the support from Novus.” Calder responded “The exchange went great. It’s great to start working with other scientists at this early stage of my career.”

The Novus RCN is pleased to have sponsored such a successful visit, and we look forward to reading the final product! Keep an eye on the Novus blog for updates on this and other Novus SEP site visits!

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