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Long-Term Forest Ecology PhD Research

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Goal: Crowdsource funding to help pay for field technicians that will assist in resampling a long-term forest research dataset in the Triangle Region of North Carolina for my PhD dissertation.

Forests cover more than 30% of the Earth's land area and contain more than 80% of terrestrial organisms known to science. Further, three hundred million people worldwide live in forests and 1.6 billion depend on them for their livelihoods -- still, even larger numbers use or require forest resources every single day! Clearly, forests are incredibly important and valuable in many ways: ecologically, biologically, economically, etc.

There is little to no doubt that our world is changing at an ever increasing rate -- this includes our climate, land-use, and humankind's overall utilization and modification of the Earth's resources. Forests are of special concern due to their incredible biodiversity and abundance of important resources. Although deforestation has slowed or even reversed in some areas of the world, other areas are still suffering from immense unsustainable deforestation practices. Some 46-58 million square miles of forest are still lost each year -- equivalent to 36 football fields every minute!  As a result, upwards of 40% of forests have been lost.

Due to the increasing threat to our forests and the still incomplete knowledge of long-term forest trends, it is imperative that we collect as much research on forested ecosystems as possible! We need to gain a fuller understanding of both small- and large-scale patterns and processes shaping our forests across time. Understanding long-tem trends will allow us to understand base forest functionality to more fully understand and properly recognize the effects that current rates of global change are having on our forests. With a more complete understanding of these effects, scientists will be more capable of properly informing policy makers as to what the most sustainable practices  of resource use and negative-change mitigation are moving forward.

Hi, my name is Chris Payne. I'm a forest ecology PhD student at the University of North Carolina, and I'm interested in just that: trying to better understand long-term forest trends and how those trends might be changing with current global change. I currently have a historical 80 year dataset of forest growth which will allow me to track forest growth trends across the better part of the last century. However, I would like to resample over 20 ha of forest plots to gain a better understanding about how those trends are currently changing with current effects of climate change, increasing regional urbanization, and increases in herbivores and invasive species.

I have already resmapled over 4 ha of forest the previous two years, but this larger area of plots will be much more challenging to accomplish. Preliminary results from the previous two years of data collection do suggest that there is in fact a notable shift in the forest, so it is even more important that I resample this larger area to get a more complete understanding of the trends I might be seeing.

This research will require the measurement of some 50,000 trees! This is, of course, impossible to accomplish without trained assistance from effective field technicians. I will spend approximately 4-6 months measuring trees, but need to hire 2-4 qualified assistants to make this large-scale undertaking possible. ** The purpose of this page is to crowdsource any type of funding to help pay these assistants. **

If you are concerned about the long-term sustainability of forests and the improvement of resource-acquisition and destruction-mitigation practices of forests, please consider donating to my fund. Though my research will not directly affect these practices, it will provide a clearer long-term understanding of the basic science/ecology of forests so that it might inform future policy makers. Further, if you are simply interested in funding PhD research or helping a graduate student on his way to a career in sustainability research, please consider donating today. Finally, if you are simply looking for an opportunity to fund some basic research or get involved in the scientific process, please provide a donation!

Thank you very much for your time, and please consider the long-term sustainability of our forests worldwide so that they may continue providing habitat and resources for generations (and hopefully eons!) to come!


Forest Ecologist
Chapel Hill, NC

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