Looking to the Future

January 2020

The start of a new year often brings reflections on what lies ahead. Pondering what’s new and what’s next is a year-round task for Northern Research Station scientists. Their work can apply technology in new ways, create new insights and new connections, and find new uses for familiar things. In January, we highlight a scientist, research, and partnership that are looking to the future.

Environmental Education

2019 EE 30 under 30 award recipientsThe North American Association for Environmental Education’s 30 Under 30 program spotlights individuals from around the world who are leaders in their communities. These inspiring young men and women, all under 30 years of age, are future leaders in environmental education. 30 Under 30 is made possible by the US Forest Service, the Global Environmental Education Partnership (GEEP), and Wells Fargo.

30 Under 30 is made possible by the US Forest Service, the Global Environmental Education Partnership (GEEP), and Wells Fargo.

Featured Scientist

Hobie Perry

Hobie PerryHobie Perry, research soil scientist with the Northern Research Station’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, spends his time rethinking how the rich resource of FIA data gets delivered in the future, especially through maps. “I’ve always had a passion for maps,” Perry said.  “As a child, I would spread out National Geographic maps on the floor and invent my own islands.”

Today, he leads the team developing the FIA Digital Engagement Portfolio, which creates more powerful and user-friendly tools based on the questions land managers, non-governmental organizations, environmental groups and other partners are asking. The newest products combine remote sensing data with data from FIA and multiple partners to generate maps on the fly from an interface that works regardless of the user’s platform. These maps of the future can tell a story through pop-up charts and customizable data analysis.

Finding answers to the questions partners ask requires a new approach. “We can’t just put today’s plot-based information in high-level summaries at the state level.  We need to supply information at a much finer scale that helps people make local decisions,” he said.

Perry describes his role in creating this new future as the cheerleader, encouraging and corralling work by FIA staff, the Forest Service’s Chief Information Office, and ESRI, a corporate partner supplying mapping and spatial analytics software. “What keeps me going is the prospect that we can bring this content to people in ways that are accessible to them, which hopefully lets them think about these conservation issues in new ways.”

Currently, Perry splits his time between his office in Saint Paul and the Forest Service headquarters in Washington, DC, where he is acting as the National Program Lead for Monitoring, Remote Sensing, and Geospatial Analysis Research. A native of Michigan, he came to Minnesota for graduate school in 1991, earning his masters and doctorate degrees in forest resources. Perry joined the Forest Service in 2004 after five years on the faculty of Humboldt State University (Arcata, CA) teaching wildland watershed management. Current passions include baking French pastries, fat biking and gravel riding, playing squash, brewing beer and cider, and mixing classic cocktails. He and his wife of 24 years (Jo) are empty nesters with a fondness for University of Minnesota women's ice hockey.

More information about Hobie Perry >>

Featured Research

The Baltimore Wood Project: Reclaiming Wood, Lives, and Communities

Man processing reclaimed urban wood.Could wood help save a city? The Baltimore Wood Project teams USDA Forest Service Research & Development (R&D) and State & Private Forestry (S&PF) with partners in seeking answers and rethinking the value of what many consider to be urban wood "waste.”

"Through this shared stewardship initiative, we are using urban wood as a catalyst toward achieving economic, social, and environmental sustainability goals,” said Sarah Hines, science delivery specialist with the Northern Research Station. “Beyond providing one-off resources or technical assistance, the Forest Service is building a large-scale networked regional economy across boundaries and bridging government, communities, and economic sectors including public, private, and social enterprise.”

Urban wood sources include both tree care operations and wood recovered in the deconstruction of row houses. What was once waste is now creating jobs, providing green materials, and becoming beautifully reclaimed products in Baltimore. Since 2012, DETAILS Deconstruction, a Humanim Social Enterprise, has trained and employed over 165 low income residents from Baltimore that faced barriers to employment. More than $4.1 million in revenue has been generated from sales of recovered material over that time period. The national furniture retailer Room & Board has launched a special line of furniture products using Baltimore-sourced wood, with much of the manufacturing carried out by small producers in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

These recovery and production efforts are backed up with wood production and social-ecological research conducted by the Forest Service. “Mounting evidence suggests that urban forests and wood reuse initiatives are solid economic investments, with long-term environmental and social returns,” said Hines. “Revenues, reduced costs, and public support from urban wood reuse programs might offer a creative way to help fund reinvestment in urban forests and reduce the ever-expanding burden of waste production — and they just might create a more resilient community in the process.”

Expanding scale and scope is a top priority. “Baltimore has been the pilot city, but we are sharing, replicating, and refining the urban wood economy model in other communities via the Urban Wood Academy, which is a dynamic opportunity to exchange knowledge and best practices from Baltimore and beyond,” Hines said.

More information on The Baltimore Wood Project >>

Featured Partnership

Partnerships Drive New Science in Climate Change Adaptation

Partners help urban floodplain forests in Minnesota adapt to a changing climatePartnerships have always been at the core of the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS), a collaborative effort among the USDA Forest Service, universities, conservation organizations, and forest industry to provide information on managing forests for climate change adaptation. But those collaborations have deepened over NIACS’s ten plus-year history so that partners are now at the forefront of defining research questions and programming.

“From our beginning, the purpose was to make research and information on climate change and forests more accessible to natural resource managers and foresters,” said Maria Janowiak, NIACS deputy director located in Houghton, Michigan. “We are fundamentally about science-management partnerships and ensuring that information is going in both directions.”

Natural resource professionals working with the NIACS Climate Change Response Framework bring increasingly complex and nuanced questions that are driving new science and creating tools that better serve local situations. Two recent examples illustrate that trend.

Ojibwe and Menominee tribal leaders recognized the lack of indigenous knowledge and perspectives available in climate adaptation planning tools. Working with staff from the Northern Research Station and NIACS, a diverse team representing tribal, academic, intertribal and federal entities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan created Dibaginjigaadeg Anishinaabe Ezhitwaad: A Tribal Climate Adaptation Menu . Published in 2019, the Tribal Adaptation Menu is an organized collection of climate change adaptation actions for natural resource management. Created based on Ojibwe and Menominee perspectives, languages, concepts and values, it was intentionally designed to be adaptable to other indigenous communities.

In another example, land managers’ questions about mainitaining floodplain forests along the Mississippi River corridor of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area prompted  the creation of the first urban-based trial affiliated with the international Adapative Silviculture for Climate Change network. Staff from NIACS, Colorado State University and University of Minnesota, working with the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, its nonprofit partner Mississippi Park Connection, and local land management partners, developed alternative strategies to address the changing conditions these forests face.

This model of supporting other groups is definitely a really big one for NIACS,” said Janowiak. “Because the topic is so big and there is so much work to be done, we need to increase efficiency and scale up our ability to support our partners.”

More Information on Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science >>

Last updated: 12/18/2019