The University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation has been the recipient of at least five grants this year pertaining to a wide variety of studies. UM Forest Ecology Associate Professor Andrew Larson and his team received two grants from the Joint Fire Science Program, one of which will look at how trees respond to fire.

"Our team was really well positioned because we have a unique data set in Yosemite National Park: 35,000 individually tagged trees that we have been monitoring as a long term study, and then the site burned in 2013," Larson said. "So we had this great data set and we were able to respond to a call for improving post-fire tree mortality models."

Larson says they tagged the trees with steel markers back in 2009, in expectation of a planned burn, but then a wildfire ripped through the tagged area. The analysis is expected to help foresters decide what to do with trees in a burnt over area.

"It is often really controversial, deciding out on the ground, does this tree have a high probability of dying and should we salvage it and take it to the mill or does this tree have a high probability of survival, even though it went through a fire, and should we leave it on the landscape to provide habitat, fix carbon and all the other things trees do for us?" Larson said.

The two grants that Larson is a part of alone total more than $600,000. Other UM forestry research projects will be investigating how past management techniques, including prescribed burns and clear cutting effected regrowth  after a fire and how wildfire impacts human populations.

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