Novus Scientist Exchange Program Site Visits: Drs. Ryan Kelly and Tatiana Loboda

The Novus RCN is pleased to report on the sixth of our eight Novus Scientist Exchange Program (SEP) site visits! In June 2015, Dr. Ryan Kelly (Boston University) visited the lab of Dr. Tatiana Loboda (University of Maryland).

The project, titled “Constraining boreal forest fire-vegetation feedbacks with satellite imagery,” focused on the impacts of increasing frequency of boreal fires in Alaska on forest community structure. Mature boreal forest may take decades to fully recover from a significant fire event, and early successional responses to fire favor the presence of low-flammability deciduous trees, potentially limiting the acceleration of boreal forest fire frequency due to fire-vegetation feedbacks. Frequent fire, therefore, may also result in a novel ecosystem state replacing the communities that have existed in this region for millennia.

Dr. Kelly met with Dr. Loboda in order to gain experience using satellite imagery data to assess changes in community structure in Alaska boreal ecosystems following fire. By utilizing the unique spectral signatures of dominant conifers (Picea) and early-successional species (Betula and Populus), changes in community structure could then be assimilated into post-fire recovery modeling frameworks previously developed by Dr. Kelly.

During the visit, Drs. Kelly and Loboda obtained and analyzed satellite imagery from Alaska boreal forests and ran some preliminary tests with Dr. Kelly’s model. This exchange served to introduce Dr. Kelly to satellite imagery and remote sensing analysis, and familiarize Dr. Loboda with the modeling aspect of the project. Dr. Kelly is continuing the analyses, and final results will be used to formulate an improved fire-prediction model, and likely used for an NSF ABoVE proposal.

In their interaction reports, both Drs. Kelly and Loboda were pleased with the site visit. Dr. Loboda found the Novus SEP to be ‘a highly beneficial component for Novus, as it allows for developing new directions of research for established PIs and involving researchers in their early career stage in larger research agenda in a rather efficient way.’ Dr. Kelly added that ‘Tatiana and I had talked repeatedly about getting this project started but had never quite gotten around to it. The funding to visit and work one-on-one finally kickstarted the collaboration we had planned but never realized.’

The Novus SEP is very pleased to have yet another successful and enjoyable site visit! We wish the team luck on their proposal and look forward to seeing the new and improved fire-prediction model!

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