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Departments & Programs


Melting Glaciers, Dying Trees

Yellow-cedar trees on Peril Straight near Chichagof Island. Courtesy of Jonathan Felis.

In conjunction with the USDA Pacific Northwest Research Station Forestry Sciences Laboratory (FSL) in Juneau, Alaska, Lauren Oakes (PhD 2nd) is currently designing an ecological study to understand changes in the coastal forest community, as a response to Yellow-cedar decline. By reducing the snowpack that acts as an insulator to protect roots throughout the frozen winters, climate change has made the trees vulnerable to sudden freeze-thaw events, resulting in mortality spreading from British Columbia to Southeast Alaska.

Lauren will consult historical aerial photographs to verify the timing of Yellow-cedar mortalities, and collect data on the presence and growth of other tree species to aid in interpreting forest response to Yellow-cedar death. She will visit forests that died off in the early 1900s and compare her observations to those found in forests of more recent die-offs.

In addition to its scientific contributions, Lauren's research will yield implications for the management of these forests for multiple uses and for conservation planning. Her research will bring together community members from the Sitka Conservation Society to the local Forest Service Ranger district. Along with FSL, Lauren hopes to engage local college students and educators in the project. "I'm looking forward to a busy summer and keeping my fingers crossed for favorable winds to access these remote forests. I'm excited to build a team to work on this project over the coming years."