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The Next Generation

December 2015

Everyone fortunate enough to have grown up with a strong connection to nature knows that landscapes as varied as forests, prairies, mountains and the sea share one common trait: they have the power to transform a child’s life. This month, we celebrate the next generation of Northern Research Station scientists by profiling six researchers whose connection to nature shaped their life, and whose work today is shaping the future of America’s wild and urban landscapes. 

Environmental Education Link

[image:] Woodsy Owl reading a book.Inspiring the next generation of scientists - here is a listing of books our scientists and staff remember as their favorite nature-themed fiction from childhood.

Featured Scientists

Anne Timm

Anne TimmResearch Aquatic Ecologist Anne Timm’s attachment to nature began when she was young.  “My first memory at age 5 was catching a fish with my grandfather in Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas,” she said.  Timm also recalls many trips to the local zoo and aquarium with her parents.  “When I was in high school, I went on my first week-long canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Superior National Forest, Minnesota,” she said. “On that trip I recognized my passion for natural resources.”   

Many factors drew Timm into the sciences, among them her concern about biodiversity.  “I chose aquatic species because there are more at risk species in this group when compared to other groups. We are lucky to have highly diverse groups of fish and crayfish in the United States and land managers have lots of opportunities to influence aquatic habitat quality for these species groups,” Timm said.   

Timm works at the Northern Research Station’s Baltimore Urban Field Station and is currently studying the effects of chemicals in urban streams on crayfish.   “In the urban setting, leaky sewer pipes have potential to contribute personal care chemicals, a group of chemicals of emerging concern, to the stream network,” she said. “Our recent results show that estrogens and UV filters in personal care items are of particular concern and can accumulate in crayfish. Crayfish, like canaries in a coal mine, can be used as bio-indicators of stream contamination that can have a negative impact up the food chain.  

What Timm likes most about being a scientist is working within a community to learn about local and regional concerns related to water, aquatic habitats, and aquatic species, and then to design research to address those concerns.  Timm is also very dedicated to mentoring students and younger professionals who will one day be the next generation of natural resource managers and aquatic scientists.   

As a new scientist, Timm finds building the network of support that is needed for long-term success is one of her biggest challenges.  “Finding those true and equal-effort collaborative partnerships and teams can be difficult,” she says.

Example of old technology: A Slide Rule

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Dacia Meneguzzo

Dacia MeneguzzoIt would be hard to find a more forested childhood than Dacia Meneguzzo’s upbringing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “We spent a lot of time hiking, hunting, fishing and cutting wood,” Meneguzzo said. “I spent almost all of my free time in the woods, so I wanted to work in the woods.”

A research forester with the Northern Research Station in St. Paul, her 15-year career with the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program has not exactly been working in the woods. A research forester works mostly indoors, for one thing, and she serves as FIA’s lead data analyst for Nebraska and Kansas, states that are not what you might call heavily forested. She has gained respect for landscapes long on vistas and short on woods, as well as respect for trees that do not quite meet the FIA’s precise definition of forest: land at least 120 feet wide and at least 1 acre in size with at least 10 percent cover by live trees.
“I call them my underdog trees,” Meneguzzo said. “I feel like it’s my duty to get them the attention they deserve.”

Her work is doing just that. Currently, Meneguzzo is developing high resolution maps of Nebraska’s treed areas. High-resolution digital aerial photographs have been used for mapping small, focused areas, but Meneguzzo is developing techniques that will expand their use for creating county and state maps of woodland areas throughout the Great Plains. The project grew out of conversations with state foresters who wanted data on windbreaks and other trees that do not meet the definition of “forest.”
The project is an example of Meneguzzo’s favorite part of her job: the opportunity to pioneer new approaches to research. “I like that it’s unknown territory and I am discovering something new that people are interested in knowing and feel is important,” she said.

A doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, Meneguzzo said that finding her way as a scientist has been challenging. “There’s no specific formula to follow toward becoming a research scientist,” she said.

Symbol of old technology: Massive computer monitors, televisions with picture tubes, CD/DVDs, and land lines.

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Grant Domke

Grant Domke

Research Forester Grant Domke grew up spending a lot of time outdoors and has always been interested in how organisms interact and respond to disturbances. “Water and fish especially captivated my attention as a youngster and continue to fascinate me, but mostly in a recreational sense. Forest ecosystems represent, in my mind, the perfect medium to study interactions and organismal response to disturbance,” he explains.

Domke is a member of the Northern Research Station’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Unit and has historically worked with tree data in his research. “Recently we began developing new approaches to litter and soil carbon estimation in forests using Forest Inventory and Analysis data and auxiliary information for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change reporting.  These studies have given me the opportunity to work with some great scientists and have forced me to think outside the box and explore techniques that I have not used before” he says.

Interest in helping people led Domke to be interested in working for the Forest Service.  “In my mind, Forest Service Research & Development and particularly FIA is a product-driven science organization. These products come in many different forms – forest management guides, forest resource reports, peer-reviewed journal articles – but all of them are important and help people protect, sustain, and improve the world we live in” he explains. 

Collaboration and solving problems are two things he likes most about being a scientist.  “I grew up playing team sports. I am a team player and all of the work I am involved with is a team effort. There is nothing more rewarding than building relationships, assembling a team, and solving problems” Domke said. 

Asked about the greatest challenge he faces as a new scientist, he says “Time. If we could somehow extend the day length to 30 hours I might have the time to get all the work I have in mind done.”

His representation of old technology: Phone jacks.

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Lara Roman

Lara RomanGrowing up in Philadelphia, Lara Roman’s interest in ecology was nurtured as a volunteer at the Academy of Natural Sciences, where she got her first taste of research sorting dead fish samples. Today, Roman works a few blocks from the Academy, where she studies the life and death of urban trees.

A research ecologist at the Station’s Philadelphia Field Station, Roman is at the forefront of the next generation of natural resource stewardship – cities. Her current work explores how urban forests change through time. One project involves matching aerial photographs from the 1970s with current aerial photographs to see how tree cover has changed, and then using archival and institutional records to understand how that change occurred.

Urban forests generate a range of social and environmental benefits, but they are also an investment, and cities are increasingly interested in quantifying the return on that investment. Forest Service research is helping by evaluating the performance of tree planting programs through studies of tree survival and growth. Her studies have demonstrated the critical role of maintenance and stewardship in young tree establishment. Roman has also adapted methods used to calculate human life expectancy to estimate street tree lifespans. These studies have been done in close partnership with nonprofit urban greening organizations, generating new knowledge together to inform management. In fact, her studies on urban tree mortality were inspired by conversations with staff at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the host for the Philadelphia Field Station.
One of Roman’s favorite aspects of her research is that studying city trees gives her opportunities to talk to the people who live, work and walk through urban forests and hear first-hand how they interact with trees. Her interests in urban forestry grew from a passion for cities, and a desire to enhance the urban forests in which many Americans live.

Symbol of old technology: 8-inch floppy disks.

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Maria Janowiak

Maria JanowiakOn the west edge of the Sand Counties region of Wisconsin where a professor named Aldo Leopold kept a shack, Maria Janowiak grew up on a rural road steeped in an environment much like the one Leopold wrote about in “A Sand County Almanac.” The outdoors was where she played growing up, and from the time she was a young adult it has been the center of all but one of the jobs she has ever held.

As a climate change and adaptation scientist with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS), today Janowiak translates climate change science into resources that land managers can use to make forests more resilient to the effects of a changing climate. When she joined NIACS – a collaboration of the Forest Service, Michigan Technological University, the Trust for Public Land, the University of Minnesota, and the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement – the program was brand new and unlike anything else in the Forest Service. “It was a little like an internet start-up,” Janowiak said. “We were the ones figuring it out every day and trying to build something that made sense.”

Eight years later, NIACS is a model for bridging the gap between science and land management, with one of its projects, the Climate Change Response Framework, now including several regions. As coordinator of the Climate Change Response Framework project in New England, Janowiak is leading the compilation of a vulnerability assessment that will document the observed effects of climate change, projected changes in the climate and the landscape, and forest vulnerabilities. Her work also includes giving presentations and hosting training on forest adaptation strategies for forest management professionals.

While her education centered on forest management, the element of the job that most intrigues Janowiak is communicating science. “I’ve always been really interested in the practical application of science in land management,” she said. “I get to have conversations with my co-workers about how the science has progressed, and then how we can take it to the field.”

Symbol of old technology: A slide rule.

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Mike Dockry

Mike DockryTrained in forestry, ecology and social science, Interdisciplinary Research Scientist, Mike Dockry, brings a unique blend of skills to the research problems he investigates.  As a child in Green Bay, Wis., he spent a lot of time camping, canoeing, cross country skiing, and just being in the woods.  In high school, a visit to the forestry education center run by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources helped spur Dockry’s interest in forestry as a college major.  His interests later broadened to include the human dimensions of forestry.  

Much of Dockry’s current research relates to how people think about sustainability, how they envision the future of forests, and how cultures and past experiences influence forest management. As an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Dockry is particularly enthusiastic about his current research involving the Anishinabe and other tribes in the Lake States. “I have been working with tribes to integrate climate science, tribal perspectives, and traditional ecological knowledge into forest management decisions and planning,” he describes.   

Technology transfer is a critical part of Dockry’s research.  “When I work with tribal communities it is my responsibility to make sure that scientific and forest management information is shared in a way that everyone can understand it, discuss it, and use it for their own forest management activities,” he said. “It is also important as a research scientist working with tribes that I learn from them.”

For Dockry, employment with the Forest Service came after he completed a stint as a Peace Corp volunteer in Bolivia and took advantage of his 1-year noncompetitive hiring status. “The Forest Service was a very good fit for me because of my educational foundations in forest science and my personal philosophy that we need to use our natural resources sustainably,” he said.  The greatest challenge he has faced as a new scientist is that there are not very many people doing the kind of work he is doing, so it is sometimes hard to discuss methods, results, and build camaraderie.

Symbol of old technology: A two person cross-cut saw.

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