In the Woods with FBRI/University of Idaho Fellowship Graduate Students

By Dan Opalach

During the week of April 23, 2018 Dr. Jim Arney, Dr. Dan Opalach, and Brock Purvis participated in field trips to discuss data collection protocols with FBRI Fellowship graduate students working on their Master of Science (MS) degrees at the University of Idaho (UI).  FBRI started the Fellowship program with UI as a means of testing components of FPS and getting the results published in professional journals.  In addition, the program benefits the graduate students receiving the FBRI Fellowships, their major professors, and the University of Idaho’s Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Fire Sciences.

On Tuesday, April 24, Halli Hemmingway of Bennett Lumber Products (Bennett) and her major professor Dr. Mark Kimsey took the group to two sites northeast of Moscow to review the site tree measurement protocols for Jim’s 10m Site Index system.  For her MS, Halli will be using such data to construct a 10m site index layer for Bennett using Jim’s SiteGrid technology.  Halli plans to fall 90 to 120 Douglas-fir trees for her study.


Ben Koester, timber faller, bucking a Douglas-fir 10m site tree into sections. A round will be cut out at stump height, 34 feet, 67 feet, and at 100 feet so that ages can be accurately determined at those heights. This is the kind of information that is needed to localize FPS and improve its ability to project the growth and development of a given timberland ownership.


Dr. Jim Arney (center) discussing the 10m site index system with FBRI Fellowship recipients Halli Hemmingway (on the left) and Patrick Whalen (to the right)


On Thursday, April 26, Patrick Whalen of Inland Empire Paper Company (IEP) took the group to five sites southwest of Coeur d’Alene.  For his MS degree, Patrick is localizing IEP’s site index GIS layer to take into account IEP’s investments in early silviculture.  The data collection protocol for Patrick’s project involves the use of Jim’s CASH Card.  (CASH is the acronym for Correct Age Site Height.)  As part of his data collection efforts, Patrick will cut down trees in IEP’s young plantations to determine how many years it takes them to reach a height of 21 feet depending on species, site conditions, and silvicultural investments.  Such information is needed to appropriately project the growth of these managed stands and to calculate the financial return associated with silvicultural treatments.


Patrick Whalen cutting down a Ponderosa Pine for his MS thesis. Patrick must accurately determine how many years it takes site trees in IEP’s young plantations to grow 20 feet in height. Such information is used in the process to “localize” FPS so it can better project the development of IEP’s young stands.


From left to right Patrick Whalen, Brock Purvis, and Dr. Jim Arney measuring a Western Larch for Patrick’s MS thesis.


This is the first year of the FBRI Fellowship program with UI and it’s up and running full speed.  Each of the four recipients[1] has identified an area of research that is of extreme interest to FBRI and so Jim and Dan will be working diligently with these students and their major professors to encourage them to publish their results as soon as possible.  Working with graduate students is just one strategy adopted by FBRI’s Board that helps to further the mission of the Institute.  For those of you interested in finding out more contact Dan Opalach, FBRI Forest Biometrician, at (971) 940-2409 or use the form to the right to contact Dan.

[1] In addition to Halli Hemmingway and Patrick Whalen, the other two FBRI Fellowship recipients are Silas Whitney and Shawn DeFrance.  Silas’ project involves LIDAR, while Shawn’s project is focused on competition indices used in the context of growth models.