Current Research

Multi-Scale Perspectives of Fire Activity in the Upper Great Lakes Region of Minnesota

Elizabeth's current doctoral dissertation research uses a recently reconstructed site-based fire history to understand the local and regional drivers of the fire regime in the Upper Great Lakes region. Understanding the historical spatial and temporal patterns in the fire regime and linking these patterns to landscape characteristics can help elucidate key mechanisms of fire activity. Changes in the fire regime can help assist forest managers in the development of fire management strategies that are sensitive to the historic fire regime yet considers current land use and future changes in climate. To implement management strategies effectively, such as prescribed burning, it is imperative to identify how various drivers of fire manipulate the timing, spread, and severity. Because fire activity depends ultimately on the production of fuel via vegetation growth, there is a direct connection between drivers of fire and mechanisms governing ecosystems. As such, information is increasingly needed to identify high-priority areas based on ecological processes to implement prescribed fire programs to reduce fuel. My dissertation research will provide much needed insight into the complex dynamics between disturbance and environmental processes in the Upper Great Lakes region of Minnesota.

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Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Fire History in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Elizabeth is researching the relative role of fire in the fragmented red pine forest of Voyageurs National Park along with her advisor Kurt Kipfmueller an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Society. This research uses a dendrochronological approach to asses the distribution of historic fires within the park and analyze how fire frequency has changed in recent years. Other aspects of this research focuses on understanding the synchrony of fire between these fragmented forests and the association between fire and regional drought.

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PAST RESEARCH

Climate Drivers of Wildfire Activity in Magdalena New Mexico, USA

For her master's research she analyzed the historical fire regime of a high elevation, mixed-conifer forest in the Magdalena Mountains, New Mexico. This research evaluated the different climate drivers, represented by the Palmer Drought Severity Index, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that influence the occurrence of wildfire on an interannual to decadal timescale. Variations in climate and the association between wildfire occurrence is important for land management agencies who now wish to restore wildfires to their historical range of variability.

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Historic Structure Dating 

During her master's Elizabeth was involved in numerous historic structure dating projects including the dating of historic cabins, houses, and mills. This form of dendrochronological research uses either cross-sections or archaeological increment cores (pictured below) extracted from the buildings. Often, historical agencies or homeowners seek to understand the historical significance or age of their structure. Through the use of dendrochronology the structures can be absolutely dated giving reference to the historical context.

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A. Core taken from an Ulmus log (top) and a Fraxinus log (bottom). b “Ulmiform” bands in the latewood that were diagnostic of Ulmus cores. c Attached bark on a Fraxinus core. d Pith of a Fraxinus core (photographs by L. A. Stachowiak)