RESEARCH KEY TO UNDERSTANDING OUR FLAMMABLE WILDERNESS
A ROUNDUP OF UM RESEARCH ADVANCES
THE POTENTIAL IMPLICATIONS OF GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
UM'S NATIONAL CENTER FOR LANDSCAPE FIRE ANALYSIS
UM TESTS FEEDING STRATEGIES FOR SOLDIERS, FIREFIGHTERS
HOTSHOTS AND HOT AIR
DYNAMIC DOCTORAL STUDENT JENNY WOOLF STUDIES WOODPECKERS
IN THE FOREST
STUDY INVESTIGATES THE BEST USES OF BURNING
ECOS PROGRAM GETS KIDS DOING SCIENCE OUTSIDE
FUNCTION OF FIRE
RESEARCH SHOWS UNBURNED FORESTS MAY BE LESS PRODUCTIVE
HOW WILL SOCIETY ADAPT TO A FIRE-PRONE ENVIRONMENT?
A GRASP ON SMOKE
UNIVERSITY CHEMISTS DISCOVER THE INNER MYSTERIES OF SMOKE
RESEARCH REVEALS AMPHIBIANS PREFER BURNED AREAS
RESEARCHERS DISCOVER SOPHISTICATED SONGBIRD CALLS
ANTHROPOLOGISTS USE DOGS TO FIND LONG-LOST GRAVES
WARMER WEST MAY BOLSTER FUNGI BENEFICIAL TO AMERICA'S NO. 1 FOREST
studies birds inhabiting burned forest
student Jenny Woolf in the field
Woolf, 33, is a true product of the Midwest, but she has difficulty
saying exactly where she’s from. One of four sisters, Jenny was
born in Illinois and grew up in Missouri, Iowa and Florida. She attended
the University of Florida for two years, and then moved west to Oregon
State University. She came to Missoula six years ago to obtain a master’s
degree and now is beginning her third year as a doctoral student in
UM’s Wildlife Biology Program.
Q: What first drew you to science?
A: I was always interested in animals and liked science. At the University
of Florida I took an honors ecology class with an awesome teacher.
We had to do several assigned field studies and a semester-long project
of our own choosing based on 36 hours of observations. I picked herons
because Florida has lots of different species. If you have the patience
to stay and watch for hours you start to see the subtle behavior
differences between species.
Q: What do you study now?
A: Basically I’m looking at the population genetics of black-backed
woodpeckers with the goal of learning how they move among patches of
burned forest. Species that are adapted to early post-fire habitats
are so interesting because their preferred habitat is available for
such a short period of time — much shorter than the birds’ lifespan.
Black-backs primarily rely on recently burned areas to live and breed.
They are naturally rare and wide-ranging, but no one knows how far-ranging.
They use a burned area for about four years and then move, but we don’t
understand how far an individual bird might go and still remain in
a given population for breeding purposes. That’s where the genetics
comes in: You have to know how individual birds are related to know
if they’re in the same population or not. Also, you can’t
make educated decisions about forest management without knowing which
burned patches are connected from the birds’ point of view. If
you salvage a burn near Missoula, are you taking habitat away from
a population that extends to Glacier?
Q: Do you spend a lot of time in the field? Where?
A: We were in the field nearly all May, June and July. The woodpecker
project has sites around Missoula, in Glacier National Park, in Oregon
and Alberta. Each site had two people working it. Black-backs are
very hard to find unless they’re around the nest, which they
make in a cavity they excavate in a tree each year. Once we find
a nest, we spend a lot of time watching it with binoculars from far
away. We want to get blood samples from both parents, but not on
the same day if possible so we don’t interfere with feeding
the nestlings. When an adult bird leaves the nest, one person runs
to the tree, quickly adjusts the net pole to the right height, then
lies down at the base of the tree under camo netting. The longest
anyone had to wait was four hours. When the bird returns, the other
crew member alerts the net holder on the radio, and he or she jumps
up and slaps the net over the hole. Some birds got agitated and took
a long time to come out; others flew right out into the net and we
can quickly get them weighed and banded and take a blood sample.
Q: How is your work funded?
A: From a number of sources now: the National Center for Landscape
Fire Analysis; the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative;
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and Forest Service Region 1.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your work?
A: I am very excited to use a great tool such as genetics to answer
questions that you can’t get at another way.
Q: Do you feel UM has a climate that nurtures young scientists?
A: Yes. I enjoy the atmosphere here. It’s friendly, casual, noncompetitive.
I’ve had a huge amount of support from wildlife biology and also
from other graduate students.
Q: What about future plans?
A: To find more funding and finish the project! Realistically
I probably have another three years. But I love Missoula and I’m
not in a rush to leave. I want to do this project right.
information, e-mail Woolf at firstname.lastname@example.org.