Forest Landscape Ecology

Jeffery B. Cannon

Forest Landscape Ecology Lab
Mission, Values, Goals, and Development

Mission     |      Values     |     Goals     |     Development

Mission

The mission of the Landscape Ecology Lab is to advance the science and practice of landscape ecology to inform the conservation and management of ecosystems in the Southeastern US and beyond. We achieve this by (1) conducting innovative, interdisciplinary research addressing pressing conservation challenges, (2) designing practical, evidence-based solutions that integrate ecology, community, and policy, and (3) fostering the development of skilled experts and leaders who drive positive change in conservation.

Our vision is to be recognized leaders in the ecology and restoration of longleaf pine ecosystems. We aspire to produce high quality research that informs forest conservation guidance for practitioners and decision-makers. We aim to cultivate talented and innovative conservation leaders prepared to address complex environmental challenges. Innovative science incorporates diverse backgrounds and voices, and we seek to recruit and train individuals that bring unique perspectives.

Values

In pursuit of lab goals, members of the Landscape Ecology Lab are committed to a set of values that guide our work, priorities, and interactions with others. We believe in the importance of leadership and collaboration, environmental equity and justice, research quality, skepticism, and perseverance. These values reflect our dedication to conducting innovative and effective research that advances conservation issues, while ensuring our work is grounded in principles of social responsibility.

Leadership and collaboration

Solving complex problems in conservation and landscape ecology requires integrating skills and expertise across a broad range of geographies, perspectives, and disciplines. We recognize leadership and collaboration as an important service and duty in conservation to direct peers on effective avenues of conservation progress. We strive to provide the leadership necessary to form and maintain effective, integrative, and diverse partnerships and collaborations.

Environmental equity and justice

Decision-makers in conservation can increase environmental benefits and reduce environmental hazards by contributing to clean air, clean water, and natural beauty. But historic injustices have led to inequality in how environmental benefits and exposure to environmental hazards are shared. We recognize that social and economic issues are interdependent with and immediately adjacent to our work. Our lab members have a duty to consider and address those issues within our reach intentionally and continuously.

Research quality and scientific integrity

Research labs in ecology are full of exciting discussions, ideas, and experiences. While novel and innovative ideas are a critical part of a successful research career, it is more important that we bring the most important ideas to fruition, or else the benefits and broad impact of the work to a broader audience are lost. Good ideas come easily to many. But grit, perseverance, and sustained quality can set our work apart. We strive to produce high quality work and recognize the importance of maintaining enthusiasm, rigor, and attention to detail in all we do.

Skepticism and critical thinking

Skepticism and critical thinking are core tenets of the scientific process. We adopt the mentality that to do great work, it is necessary to challenge strongly held ideas, assumptions, and bias. We welcome challenges aimed at improving the quality of our work. As a result, all lab members are expected to offer and receive respectful challenges in a constructive spirit. We strive to promote healthy, respectful, and constructive debate which is prerequisite to objectivity, innovation, and rigor.

Perseverance

It is critical to bring our research to the broadest possible audience with the utmost rigor. Addressing the critical feedback we receive from advisors, experts, and reviewers can be difficult and time consuming. If our work addresses complex or contentious issues, we should anticipate periodic or even repeated rejection with an understanding that the peer-review process is necessary to facilitate the best possible work and sustain scientific integrity. Through each iteration of the peer-review process arguments are sharpened, messages are honed, and lessons are learned. We strive to promote an atmosphere that fosters individual motivation, determination, and passion for the work that we do, which ultimately cultivates the perseverance necessary to continuously improve the rigor, impact, and reach of our work.

Goals

The landscape ecology Lab has expertise in natural disturbance and restoration of forests and brings a broad, integrative perspective to bear on challenging questions in ecology and conservation. We focus these efforts on three major goals:

Goal 1: Improve understanding of the role disturbances play in shaping forest structure and function.

Frequent fire is crucial for the maintenance of biodiversity, structure, and function of many forested ecosystems. Intense winds from tropical cyclones, tornadoes, and thunderstorms are also ubiquitous in many forest types. Despite the ubiquity of severe wind disturbance in the eastern U.S., little is known about the extent to which severe winds effect forest structure, composition, and function. We aim to better understand mechanisms that drive wind resistance and resilience in southeastern ecosystems through studies that examine the following topic areas:

  • Hurricane ecology: How do hurricanes shape longleaf pine ecosystems? What mechanisms drive ecosystem resistance and resilience to hurricane disturbance?
    • Ongoing studies and projects:
      • Characterizing hurricane regimes of North and Central America
      • Hurricanes as a driver of reproduction in the masting species, longleaf pine
      • Measuring trunk windfirmness among southeastern pines using static winching
      • Effects of hurricane gaps on fuels and fire behavior in mixed pine-oak forests
      • Effects of forest structure and composition on hurricane gap characteristics
  • Climate-smart agriculture and silviculture: How can we improve management practices in important southeastern tree crops to mitigate loss to hurricanes and intense winds (pine and pecan)
    • Ongoing studies and projects:
      • Factors driving hurricane damage in planted longleaf pine stands
      • Landscape-scale drivers of hurricane risk in pecan orchards
      • Climate-smart practices for mitigating wind risk in pecan orchards
      • Effects of pecan pruning on crown architecture
 

Goal 2: Improve conservation and management outcomes in longleaf pine forests.

There is a wealth of research on longleaf pine ecology, but there is a need to develop practical applications of ecological principles to improve conservation and management outcomes. The discipline of landscape ecology offers many advantages in this regard, as it integrates field data, models, and analytical approaches such as spatial analysis and prioritization. By leveraging these tools and approaches, we aim to develop innovative solutions that can address long-standing conservation challenges at large scales. We use a blend of field surveys, modeling, and remote sensing to address the following challenges:

  • Ongoing studies and projects:
    • Effect of longleaf pine landcover on hydrology in the southeastern U.S.
    • Factors driving effectiveness of longleaf pine restoration on water outcomes
    • Effect of NRCS programs on economic outcomes for various restoration scenarios
    • Overstory influences on fuels, fire behavior, and regeneration in longleaf pine and associated oaks
    • Comparison of ecosystem function among southern pines
    • Improving models of fire-induced mortality in oak and pine
    • Overstory effects on fuel drying in longleaf pine and associated oaks
    • Contributions to Jones Center Ecological Forestry Workshop
    • Factors driving individual tree selection using the Stoddard-Neel method
    • Burning better: Implications of prescribed burning on environmental justice outcomes
    • Natural history of longleaf pine sandhill community: Ecology and disturbance
    • Natural Resources workforce development via research training
    •  

Goal 3: Improve training and adoption of new technologies for addressing conservation issues

With the increasing availability of tools such as cloud computing, lidar datasets, remote sensing, and machine learning, there is great potential to improve conservation outcomes. However, to fully realize these benefits, we need more individuals trained and equipped to apply these technologies in their work. We aim to increase opportunities for adoption and training in new technologies to improve conservation outcomes in longleaf pine.

  • Technology training:
    • Pilot virtual reality training software to improve tree-marking in longleaf pine
    • Develop training resources that enhance capacity of lab personnel in remote sensing
    • Develop a short-course: Advanced GIS for natural resource professionals
  • Technology application:
    • Improving measurements of forest structure in heterogeneous forests using lidar
    • Characterizing atmospheric inversions with DIY sensor arrays
    • Using satellite-based lidar for assessing ecosystem resistance to hurricanes
    • Develop automated tool to facilitate NRCS easement selection
    • Develop methodology for assessing crown scorch using lidar and/or drones
    • High-resolution analysis of mature and old growth forests structure using lidar

Development

Technicians
  • All technicians will gain experience in a variety of field surveying techniques, data management, and analytical techniques appropriate to their interest and skills.
  • All technicians can receive guidance on research interests and careers through lab personnel and have the opportunity to interact with Center guests.
  • Technicians are encouraged to gain a broad understanding of ecology and conservation issues through regular seminars and lectures.
  • Interested technicians are encouraged to develop independent research projects that apply their skills and interests towards the goals of the lab.
Graduate Students
  • In addition to development and training opportunities within home universities, graduate students have access to additional opportunities through the Jones Center.
  • All graduate students will receive guidance and mentorship on research interests and careers through lab personnel and by interacting with Center guests.
  • Students will have opportunities to develop leadership and mentorship skills via oversight and management of field technicians and project management.
  • All students will have the opportunity and funding to attend and present research at professional scientific conferences.
  • Students are encouraged to attend seminars and periodic workshops to advance their knowledge and skills in relevant fields.
Post-doctoral Scientists and Research Associates
  • Associates are expected to develop research, grant writing, communication, and leadership skills through practice and training, both guided and independently.
  • Associates will have opportunities to work closely as mentors and guides with students and technicians.
  • Associates will have opportunities to engage in education and outreach of the lab and are encouraged to pursue independent education, research, and outreach opportunities.
  • Associates will have the opportunity and funding to attend and present research at professional scientific conferences at least annually.
  • Associates will have the opportunity to develop skills in spatial analysis including lidar, remote sensing, or spatial statistics for broader participation in efforts that further lab goals.
Scientists
  • Scientists will continuously participate in professional development and growth in areas including leadership, grant writing, communication, and social responsibility.
  • Scientists will be responsible for cultivating new collaborations and growing networks to enhance the reputation, capacity, and reach of the team’s work.
  • Scientists will lead outreach and education efforts in the lab, creating opportunities for learning among junior lab members and for teaching among senior lab members.
  • Scientists are responsible for continuous outreach and amplification of high quality work from the lab.