University of Minnesota

Historic Structure Dating 

Photo: Evan R. Larson 

During her master's Elizabeth was involved in numerous historic structure dating projects including the dating of historic cabins, houses, and mills. This form of dendrochronological research uses either cross-sections or archaeological increment cores (pictured below) extracted from the buildings. Often, historical agencies or homeowners seek to understand the historical significance or age of their structure. Through the use of dendrochronology the structures can be absolutely dated giving reference to the historical context. 

CURRENT RESEARCH

Simulating Forest Patch Dynamics in Response to Climate Change, Fire, and Land Use in the Upper Great Lakes Region: Implications for Management

 A. Core taken from an Ulmus log (top) and a Fraxinus log (bottom). b “Ulmiform” bands in the latewood that were diagnostic of Ulmus cores. c Attached bark on a Fraxinus core. d Pith of a Fraxinus core (photographs by L. A. Stachowiak)

PAST RESEARCH 

Climate Drivers of Wildfire Activity in Magdalena New Mexico, USA

Elizabeth's current doctoral dissertation research uses a forest landscape simulation model to examine the complex interactions between climate, land use, and fire in the Upper Great Lakes forests. The near boreal forests of the Upper Great Lakes have undergone profound compositional, structural, and functional changes during the century following EuroAmerican settlement. The historical dominance of red pine in the region is representative of fire’s imprint on the landscape, supporting a disturbance regime influenced by both infrequent, severe stand replacing fires and more frequent low-moderate surface fires. However, 20th century land-use modification has generally excluded fire across the landscape, reducing dominance of resilient species and potentially increasing susceptibility of the regional forests to future environmental change. This research will utilize reconstructed fire history developed at local scales to model forest changes in response to varying fire, climate, and land scenarios. The application of the local fire history will provide more detailed projections of vegetation and environmental dynamics to carefully consider the role of frequent low-intensity surface fires and the resulting changes in forest ecosystem composition. This project will aid in the development of fire management plans that are sensitive to changes in climate yet reflective of the historic fire regimes that shaped this landscape prior to a century of substantial human-driven change. Modeling possible future forest conditions provides managers with potential scenarios that enable them to make informed, outcome-based decisions aimed at specific results, such as modifying the application of prescribed fire as a management tool.  

For her master's research she analyzed the historical fire regime of a high elevation, mixed-conifer forest in the Magdalena Mountains, New Mexico. This research evaluated the different climate drivers, represented by the Palmer Drought Severity Index, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that influence the occurrence of wildfire on an interannual to decadal timescale. Variations in climate and the association between wildfire occurrence is important for land management agencies who now wish to restore wildfires to their historical range of variability.

Elizabeth is researching the relative role of fire in the fragmented red pine forest of Voyageurs National Park along with her advisor Kurt Kipfmueller an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Society. This research uses a dendrochronological approach to asses the distribution of historic fires within the park and analyze how fire frequency has changed in recent years. Other aspects of this research focuses on understanding the synchrony of fire between these fragmented forests and the association between fire and regional drought.

Photo: Lane B. Johnson 

Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Fire History in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

​Current and Past Research 

Copyright Elizabeth Schneider