A University of Central Arkansas faculty member has been awarded a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.
Dr. Will Flatley, assistant professor of geography in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, was awarded a $469,000 National Institute of Food and Agriculture Award from the USDA to support research that uses a landscape simulation model to study how disturbances affect forested ecosystems, according to the school.
With a focus on the Rocky Mountains, the project will model the Lincoln National Forest and Mescalero Apache tribal lands in New Mexico, the Uncompahgre Plateau in Colorado and the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming.
The research is projected to continue for four years. During this time, and with support from the grant, at least two UCA undergraduates will be hired to assist. A Ph.D. student and two undergraduates from Northern Arizona University will also work on the project with co-advising from Pete Fule, a professor in the School of Forestry at Northern Arizona University.
“We will collaborate directly with managers from the Forest Service and the Mescalero Apache Tribe, designing management approaches to address the complex and difficult questions associated with climate change,” Flatley said. “I think that it will be really useful to develop and test some of these new management approaches in a landscape modeling framework.”
Disturbances that will be studied include wildfires, insects, human land use and climate change. The research can help guide forest management decisions and hopefully improve outcomes, Flatley said. Concerns related to climate change in forests include whether certain tree species will decline, whether wildfires will be more prevalent and severe in some areas, and what methods can be enacted to reduce forest mortality, he added.
“I’m excited about the grant because it enables me to carry on work that I had started as a post-doc prior to coming to UCA,” Flatley said. “It will also allow me to engage students at UCA in thinking about the complexity of climate change and how forest managers are beginning to address climate change impacts on forests.”