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Scientists & Staff

Todd Ristau

Todd Ristau

Research Ecologist
Sustaining Forests in a Changing Environment
PO Box 267
Irvine, PA 16329
Phone: 814-563-1040

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Current Research

  • My research has focused on recovery of herbaceous vegetation following forest management. I have worked on developing methods for sampling herbaceous plants and am involved in two studies assessing the impact of herbicide application on recovery of herbs.
  • I am investigating the role of buried seed as a mechanism in vegetation recovery. I am interested in recognizing silvicultural problems and opportunities during the early stem exclusion phase of stand development and have studied the role of pin cherry during that phase.
  • I am currently analyzing data from a long-term cleaning/crop tree release study established in 1936 on the Kane Experimental Forest.

Research Interests

  • I will continue to monitor herbaceous plant communities following management activities to determine what changes might occur and whether these changes are permanent or temporary.
  • I plan to work with others to recognize the conditions that result in monoculture following overstory removal and to apply existing silvicultural practices in ways to promote mixed species regeneration. Understanding the competitive ability of species like black birch, black cherry, and pin cherry are important. Understanding establishment requirements and creating conditions favorable for species like cucumber, yellow-poplar, white ash, red maple, and sugar maple to become established where possible is also critical.

Why This Research is Important

Our mission is to enhance the basic understanding of Allegheny Plateau forest ecosystems and to develop resource management guidelines. Understanding how management activities alter the herbaceous plant community in stands under a variety of management strategies is critical to the practice of ecosystem management. Understanding the competitive ability of species like black birch, black cherry, and pin cherry are important. Understanding establishment requirements and creating conditions favorable for species like cucumber tree, yellow-poplar, white ash, red maple, and sugar maple to become established where possible is critical.

Education

  • The State University of New York, College of Env. Sci. and For., Ph.D. Plant Ecology, 2010
  • The Pennsylvania State University, MS Forest Science, 1997
  • Houghton College, BS Biology, 1991

Professional Organizations

  • Ecological Society of America (1995 - Present)
  • Torrey Botanical Society (1998 - Present)
  • Society of American Foresters (1995 - Present)

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Long-Term Differences in Forests With Different Deer Densities (2011)
Thirty years after a study on the effects of deer on forest ecosystems established new forest stands at deer densities ranging from 10 to 64 deer per square mile, Forest Service scientists found that tree species diversity, canopy foliage density, insect density and bird density, all decreased significantly as the deer density at stand initiation increased. If deer densities were high initially, the effects carried over, even if densities were lower later.


Pennsylvania Regeneration Study Assesses Overstory and Understory Tree Species Communities (2014)
In 2001, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Forest Service's Forest Inventory & Analysis (FIA) program launched the "Pennsylvania Regeneration Study" to gain a better understanding of understory conditions across Pennsylvania. The landscape-level study was incorporated into a subset of the existing FIA sample locations. At each selected plot, composition and abundance of established tree seedlings and associated non-tree vegetation were recorded. Forest Service scientists analyzed the 2001 to 2005 data to determine whether overstory and understory species composition was similar by forest type or ecoregion and to test various hypotheses about causes for dissimilarity.


Scientists Study Long-term Response of Ground Beetle Communities to an Operational Herbicide Application (2013)
Ground beetles comprise a large and diverse group of mostly predatory beetles that have long been recognized as a useful barometer of ecosystem health. As part of a long-term, large-scale study of the impacts of an operational herbicide-shelterwood treatment, Forest Service scientists found no treatment response by ground beetles as measured by abundance or diversity. However, their numbers and diversity were strongly correlated with natural outbreaks of forest lepidopterans, an order of insects that include moths and butterflies.


Last updated on : 05/06/2014