Olympic Natural Resources Center

Student Research

ONRC has worked with many talented students on their research. Below is some of the recent work done by University of Washington students. 

Using a LiDAR-based model to predict basal area increment

By: Kyle Yasui

Read Kyle’s capstone here.

Synopsis: Predicting forest growth patterns is an invaluable tool when managing forests for timber production, carbon sequestration, and rare species conservation. Basal area increment (BAI) is often utilized as a method of quantifying these growth patterns. Although ground measured data is still an important aspect of calculating this metric, the potential for remote sensing, particularly LiDAR, to be used in modeling BAI is enormous. In this study, we used established tree plots that have been measured on the ground over the span of 19 years to train a LiDAR-based model to predict BAI.

Comparing LiDAR techniques for use in identifying red alder in the Sappho Long-term Ecosystem Productivity Experiment

By: Jaren Hutchings

Read Jaren’s capstone here

Synopsis: The development of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology has opened new areas of exploration in a variety of fields. In forestry, LiDAR shows promise to solve a continuous struggle in forestry data collection: determining which species are present in a stand. In this study, we focused on identifying red alder in primarily coniferous stands in the Long-Term Ecosystem Productivity (LTEP) experiment near Sappho, WA. We compared the results of a previous analysis, which determined the efficacy of publicly available aerially-flown LiDAR scans of the area. 

Regenerating Western red cedar under ungulate browsing pressure in the Olympic Peninsula: An ethnoforestry approach

By: Rose Cornwell

Read Rose’s capstone here.

Synopsis: The increase in deer and elk populations across the United States raises concerns over impacts on forest ecosystems and communities as well as individual plant species. Western red cedar is highly susceptible to ungulate browse compared to other conifer species, resulting in structural damage and low survivorship of seedlings. Abundance of this ecologically, culturally, and economically valuable species has decreased in recent decades in part due to difficulty associated with re-establishment. Challenges with regeneration come with the economic burden of browse prevention, and the uncertainty of success for organizations, communities, and individuals interested in growing this tree species. This management plan presents a 33.31 acre cedar browse substudy nestled within the T3 Watershed Experiment – a 20,000 acre experiment taking place in the Olympic Experimental State Forest (OESF).

Accuracy of RS-FRIS in the Sappho Long Term Ecosystem Productivity Experiment

By: Sarah Crumrine

Read Sarah’s capstone here.

Synopsis: The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) publishes statewide predictions of various forest characteristics—diameter, density, height, age, species composition—in publicly-available spatial datasets called RS-FRIS (Remote Sensing Forest Resource Inventory System). Sarah investigates how forest metrics reported by RS-FRIS compared to ground data in the Long-Term Ecosystem Productivity (LTEP) experiment in Sappho, WA. The purpose of this comparison is to evaluate if the RS-FRIS data can make reasonably accurate predictions of treatments in the LTEP experiment site and the feasibility of using this in other research sites with novel silviculture treatments.

Habitat predictors of bird occupancy in managed forests in the Pacific Northwest Coastal Region

By: Shawree Zhang

Read Shawree’s capstone here.

Synopsis: Complex early-seral habitat, a successional stage between a stand-replacing disturbance and tree canopy closure, is an important part of the forest life cycle in the Pacific Northwest characterized by high biodiversity and a heterogenous structure. The Type 3 Watershed Experiment being conducted in the Olympic Experimental State Forest includes treatment that mimics natural regeneration in timber stands after a severe windstorm, the goal being to explore the practicality of promoting early-seral habitat while continuing to produce timber. Two indicators are used to examine the ecological effects of this treatment: habitat conditions (e.g., vegetation structure and composition) and avian response as measured by passive acoustic monitoring. This capstone provides an analysis of the pre-harvest habitat conditions and occupancy of 10 bird species at 32 sites. 

Conifer Species Identification in High-Density Drone LiDAR

By: Will Browne

Read Will’s capstone here.

Synopsis: Remote sensing techniques have been used to assess forests for decades. A newly emerging approach is through the use of drone LiDAR, which results in dense point clouds that can be used to monitor forest resources more accurately than ever before. In this capstone, Will used these data to distinguish between two common conifer species: Douglas-fir and Western hemlock. This technique can be expanded to include additional species to assist with long-term and large-scale monitoring of forests.

Using LiDAR to Identify Red Alders in the Sappho Long-Term Ecosystem Productivity Experiment

By: Ally Kruper

Read Ally’s capstone here.

Synopsis: A fundamental question of forestry is that of composition: which species are present, and which are not. However, traditional forest inventories can be both time consuming and costly. In this study, we combined remote sensing light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data with field data from the Long-Term Ecosystem Productivity experiment located near Sappho, Washington. We utilized this combination to both increase the accuracy of our GIS data and to discriminate between red alder and other tree species. To achieve this, we created LiDAR canopy height models, manually matched tree canopies with tree stem maps based on field data. We then created a classification model based on LiDAR point returns that was able to successfully discriminate between red alder and other species.

Ally also turned her capstone project into a published paper. Check out the full paper published in Remote Sensing here.

Olympic Natural Resources Center Forest Management Plan

By: Brian D. Chan

Read Brian’s Master’s of Forest Resources Capstone here.

Synopsis: The University of Washington Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC) is a 33-acre forested property in Forks, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula. This project details a proposed forest management plan for ONRC forests that uses methods from the Type 3 Watershed Experiment and includes three management alternatives.

Sword ferns in the Pacific Northwest: A greenhouse experiment and field investigation.

By: Chloe May

Read Chloe’s capstone here

Synopsis: Sword ferns are ecologically and culturally important to Pacific Northwest ecosystems. The growth patterns, physiology, and spore reproduction are not well studied. In addition, localized die offs of this species in Western Washington is not well understood. This capstone analyzed sword fern browse data from a long-term ecosystem productivity study in the Siuslaw National Forest and paired this with a greenhouse experiment to better understand the growth and survival of this species.