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Scientists & Staff

Brian R. Sturtevant

Research Ecologist
Institute for Applied Ecosystem Studies: Theory and Application of Scaling Science in Forestry
5985 Highway K
Rhinelander, Wisconsin 54501-9128
Phone: 715-362-1105

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Current Research

I am interested in the multi-scale processes affecting the health and function of forested and mixed-use landscapes, and I have focused on three research avenues falling under this broader theme. First, I am investigating the spatial-temporal dynamics and impacts of disturbance by forest insect defoliators, using a combination of remote sensing, pattern analysis, and simulation modeling. Second, I am investigating interactions between natural and human processes as they influence fire dynamics. This research includes analyses of modern fire databases in the upper Midwest, and the simulation of fire disturbance patterns as influenced by human activities, forest management, and insect disturbances. Third, I am working with Canadian scientists to develop a multi-scale toolkit approach to providing information for sustainable forest management across diverse ecological and socioeconomic systems.

Research Interests

I will continue to pursue our understanding of the drivers underlying spatial patterns of insect disturbances, employing technologies from other disciplines including molecular techniques and atmospheric modeling. The effect of climate change on insect disturbance regimes is another key area of research I wish to pursue. Finally, I am interested in how human development patterns will interact with forest disturbances and other ecosystem processes at decade to century time scales.

Why This Research is Important

Insects cause more economic damage to forest resources in the conterminous United States than any other disturbance, but our understanding of the landscape-scale factors affecting their dynamics is poorly understood. Insight into landscape pattern interacts with the dynamics of forest pests can lead to the design of pest-resistant landscapes through forest management. We also know that humans have enormous influence over the structure and character of our forested land base. Understanding how forested systems respond to human processes will allow managers to better balance multiple and sometimes conflicting objectives for our public lands (e.g., biodiversity, recreation, public safety, water quality, etc.). This new complexity in land management also requires effective decision support tools to enable land managers to make better strategic decisions based on the best available science.


  • University of Maryland at College Park, Ph.D. Ecology, 2001
  • Utah State University, M.S. Wildlife Ecology, 1996
  • Rutgers University, B.S. Natural Resources Management, 1992

Professional Organizations

  • International Association for Landscape Ecology (U.S. Chapter)
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Society for Conservation Biology

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Bird Monitoring in the Western Great Lakes National Forests Shows Stabilized Breeding Bird Populations (2014)
The results from 20 years of forest bird monitoring in four national forests in Minnesota and Wisconsin show positive trends in breeding bird population stability. The new report by Forest Service scientists and partners represents the most comprehensive volume of quantitative information ever compiled on the trends, habitat use, and community assemblages of breeding forest birds of the western Great Lakes region.

Scientists Predict Survivability Factors for Northern Forests Given Elevated CO2 and Ozone Levels (2013)
The researchers scaled up a high-profile 11-year ecosystem experiment called Aspen-FACE to assess how elevated carbon dioxide and ozone levels might impact real forests at the landscape scale over the course of many future decades. They determined that there will be winners and losers among species and within species groups but that managers can have considerable control over the outcomes by managing disturbance effects on forests and landscape spatial patterns. The researchers also found that changes will be gradual and that few species are likely to disappear completely because of carbon dioxide and ozone effects alone.

Spruce Budworm Effects on Fire Risk and Vegetation in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (2012)
Insect-killed trees do not necessarily increase fire risk

Last updated on : 02-Oct-2015