Barbara Bond and other OSU researchers are taking a multidisciplinary approach to studying forest ecosystems.
Throughout her career, Barbara Bond has taken a multidisciplinary approach to studying forests. And her current research, which looks at forest ecology in a new way, is no different.
Participants include a forest scientist, oceanographer, atmospheric scientist, and soil scientist.
Using a sophisticated array of electronic sensors in the H.J. Andrews Forest near Eugene, the researchers are literally watching the forest breathe, the plants interact with and feed the soil microbes, and rivers of air pour up and down slopes-all in ways never before understood.
Doing this kind of research in a forest with mountainous terrain is unusual. Historically, says Bond, who is the first holder of the Ruth H. Spaniol Chair of Renewable Resources at OSU, flat terrain has been an easier, less costly environment in which to do experiments, and much of the science about forest processes is based on data from such areas. Most research also has been done by people from individual disciplines, looking at small pieces of the puzzle.
“What we need to do now is look at where we really grow most of our trees, which is in mountainous terrain,” Bond says. “And we need to bring together the ecosystem scientists, the atmospheric experts, the engineers and soil scientists, and try to put all the pieces back together to really understand how the whole system works.”
All of this will be made easier in coming years, thanks to a new $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation that will allow placement of a new generation of battery-free, interactive sensors over a much larger area to enhance the data stream coming from the forest into the OSU laboratories.