Researchers - Aaron Weiskittel
Assistant Professor of Forest Biometrics and Modeling
School of Forest Resources
University of Maine
What problem/s are you working to solve?
I am trying to understand the various factors that influence Maine’s forest structure and composition in the hope of being able to forecast future changes. In a state that’s nearly 90 percent forested, I think it is very important that we learn to manage our forest resources in a sustainable manner. Forests in Maine currently face a variety of pressures, including a changing ownership pattern, altered management regimes, increased development pressures, potential pest (invasive and native) outbreaks, and climate change. My research attempts to understand the biophysical factors influencing forest growth and integrate those relationships with other economic, climate, and sociological models.
What progress are you making toward solutions?
My research team has compiled an extensive database of permanent forest growth research plots that range from southern Maine to Newfoundland and span the 1950s to the present day. This database allows for the exploration of various relationships and the testing of various hypotheses on the factors that influence forest dynamics. This work has resulted in various models that can be used to forecast future forest productivity, project growth under various management regimes, and assess forest sensitivity to future changes in climate. We are currently connecting these tools to remote sensing technologies, which allow for more sophisticated projections of Maine’s forested landscape.
How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
Forests are an important part of Maine’s economy and reputation. Whether forests are managed for bioproducts, carbon, or wildlife habitat, there’s a real need to understand how the forest will develop under various alternative future scenarios. This ensures that we are managing the forests in a balanced and sustainable manner. The tools developed by our research can be easily used by fellow scientists, land managers, and policy makers to assess the consequences of various decisions.
Why did you decide to join SSI?
SSI represents an interesting opportunity to test new ideas and forge unique partnerships that would be difficult to sustain in more traditional settings. It is very exciting to exchange ideas across a wide array of disciplines and attempt to solve practical issues that are highly relevant to the state’s future.
What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
The best part is hearing the various perspectives, learning to find common ground between researchers with much different backgrounds, and being directly engaged with stakeholders.
Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
My little two-acre garden experiment near Winterport.
What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
Exploring new part of the state in the late summer.
Mud season survival strategy?
Grabbing a paddle and canoeing a stream.
What sustains you?
New ideas and travel.
Additional information about Aaron and his SSI team