Student Profile: Jonathan White

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After his first year at college, Forestry student Jonathan White spent the summer of 2017 as a Forest Service Resource Assistant conducting research at the Fort Valley Experimental Forest near Flagstaff, AZ.

“We were collecting measurements of the forest overstory and for basal area, mostly of ponderosa pine,” he said.

Rainfall in Fort Valley is roughly 22 inches per year, with snowfall roughly 80 inches. Colder temperatures occur in January, with the coldest recorded at -37°F on January 12, 1963. The warmest temperature recorded was 98°F on July 5, 1985. The wettest date was August 24, 2006, receiving 4.0 inches of precipitation.

Jonathan worked with a team of Resource Assistants monitoring aspects of forest density and how those aspects effect the growth of seedlings.

“Areas with high basal area had too many trees that crowded out the seedlings,” he said. “But areas with super-low basal area weren’t the best either, because there weren’t enough trees dropping seedlings.”

Foresters have been studying forest dynamics at Fort Valley since 1910, when Forest Service engineer Harold S. Betts led a research test of ponderosa pine’s ability to produce resin.

Jonathan said he had to work to the professional standards of his Forest Service supervisor, W. Keith Moser, a research forester in the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Forests and Woodland Ecosystems Science Program.

“We couldn’t just run chain and count steps,” he said,” We had to actually measure, and the measurement had to be accurate.”

Although his work was confined to three specific study plots, Jonathan took advantage of the opportunity to explore other areas of the experimental forest.

“They have two zones that were really cool, because they’re trying to restore them to pre-contact conditions.”

He said the trees in those areas looked really healthy. The forest floor supported grass there, but the grass did not appear elsewhere.

The 2017 National Silviculture Workshop in Flagstaff, AZ

Also during his placement, White attended the National Silviculture Workshop in Flagstaff, AZ.

“The presentations were mostly based on climate change and how to maintain forests through climate change, fire and droughts,” he said.