Wildfires and Insects Kill Trees: with Mike Koontz

Dr. Koontz presented on: Understanding Where Wildfires and Insects Kill Trees Using Drones and Satellites

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About the Presenter

Michael is a postdoc with the Earth Lab and CIRES at the University of Colorado in Boulder working with Dr. Jennifer Balch. He is interested in how spatial patterns of vegetation structure and composition affect the resilience of forests to wildfire and bark beetle disturbance. The goal of his research is to reveal how system-wide feedbacks in disturbance-prone forests can be harnessed to guide effective management action.

These are some projects Michael is currently working on:

  1. Integrating drone-derived data with the National Ecological Observatory Network forest structure data and the Aerial Observation Platform
  2. Using Google Earth Engine to assess wildfire severity and the precariousness of continental US forest systems to state change
  3. Drone mapping forest structure and spatial patterns of western pine beetle outbreaks in the Sierra Nevada
  4. Teaching scientific computing skills to researchers
  5. GLORIA alpine plant monitoring to track climate change effects on peaks within the Great Basin region
  6. Eco-evolutionary consequences of multiple introductions for colonizing individuals using microcosm experiments

Recommended Activities for e-Learning

Dr. Koontz's work is featured in this 40-minute documentary, titled: Ponderosa Pine Mortality, The Western Pine Beetle and Drought.

A great companion video from the CLEAN Resource Collection can be used to reinforce that pine beetles and wildfires are a major problem in the Rocky Mountains and western United States.

K-12: The USDA Forest Service Southwestern Region Fire Ecology Curriculum is jam-packed with great fire ecology background and classroom activities. Recommended activities: 

  • Elementary, pages 33-34: Fun activities to incorporate movement while social distancing in the classroom by acting out forest ecology. 
  • Middle School, pages 65-70: Use data from a forest treatment (thinning and prescribed burning) study in Arizona in this graphing activity to investigate the question, do you think fire increases or decreases diversity within a forest? 
  • High School, pages 84-90: Conduct a classroom debate about bark beetle management strategies. Students can use the Student Page on page 90 to guide research on different management strategies. 

6-12: CIRES' HEART Force program has created an entire curriculum on natural hazard resilience, with wildfire as one of the foci. Recommended activities: 

  • Middle School Colorado Wildfire Lesson: Activity 2 is meant to be run as a jigsaw, but students could dive into any of the stations using pages 3-8 of the Wildfire MS Student Handout, available as a google doc and pdf, found under the Teaching Materials section. 
  • High School Colorado Wildfire Lesson: Activities 2 and 4 provide engaging materials for students to dig into the causes, impacts, locations and frequency of wildfires in Colorado, as well as explore fire danger in their own community. Use the Wildfire HS Jigsaw Student Handout and the Wildfire HS GIS Activity Instructions, found under Materials.
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