By: Janna Loeppky, M.F. Candidate, Oregon State University
One of the most important steps in the advancement and continuation of research is
the investment in future generations of researchers. While much of the ideas for research
originate with academic faculty, the work is conducted by graduate students. These students
are contributing to NARA’s goals through groundbreaking studies in their respective fields.
Contributions to original research begin with an area of interest and slowly evolve into a
project with testable hypotheses. As part of their hard work and dedication to their field, many
are encouraged to communicate their findings in a public forum or symposium. This year,
several students attended the 2014 Western Forestry Graduate Research Symposium held in
the College of Forestry at Oregon State University from April 21‐22. The second annual event
included students from Oregon State University, Humboldt State University and the University
of Idaho providing either posters or oral presentations. This year, the symposium’s overall
theme was “Branching Out: Communicating forest research beyond academics.” Among the
wide array of presenters, two NARA‐sponsored graduate students shared their current projects
related to their work with biomass operations in the forestry sector.
Francisca Belart, a Ph.D. student in the department of Forest Engineering, Resources
and Management at Oregon State University, presented a poster titled “Moisture management
model for optimal forest biomass delivery in the Pacific Northwest.” Belart explored methods to reduce costs of transporting biomass by evaluating wood moisture content in logging residue piles for biomass production. By building a model to estimate optimal storage time for harvest residues throughout the Pacific Northwest, foresters would be able to predict moisture levels and optimal delivery time with respect to residue storage form and climate region. Since drier material is more desirable to mills for power generation, ideal delivery may occur during
different times of the year depending on harvest season, climate region and storage strategy.
This prediction would save money in transportation due to differences in load capacity as a
factor of moisture content. This model would be a very cost effective alternative as opposed to
continuous sampling. So how did Belart develop her experimental model?
Data for Belart’s study began with collecting repeated live branch sampling for moisture
content determination over a period of four seasons in four areas of Western Oregon. These
collections varied with a wide range of forest types and climate zones aiming to obtain average
initial moisture content in potential biomass material at different times during the year. By
placing sensors and wood samples in various residue piles (Figure 1), she will be able to obtain
and model moisture content along with each pile’s corresponding climatic conditions.
Belart hopes to combine her data with economic information in order to determine optimal delivery time of biomass volume given its moisture content changes. Eventually, researchers such as Belart will help forest planners determine ideal time to transport harvest residues at a
While Belart focused her research on the moisture content of harvest residues, another
student presenter described his work concerning “Long‐term soil productivity on managed
forests: Mechanisms of apparent resilience after intensive biomass removal.” Adrian Gallo, an
M.S. student also in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at
Oregon State University, is exploring the role that the organic soil horizon and harvest residues
play in affecting soil conditions. Beginning with the National Forest Management Act of 1976,
research and monitoring were required on public lands in order to protect and enhance forest
management sustainability. Two key properties indicating the level of soil productivity include
organic matter and porosity. Organic matter such as decomposing leaves and woody debris,
provide an energy source and nutrients for organisms. Soil porosity controls the diffusion of
oxygen and water throughout the soil profile as needed for microbial and root activity.
Combined, these variables have a substantial impact on overall primary production of a
In order to observe these two critical soil properties, Gallo installed a variety of monitoring devices (Figure 2) on a tree farm near Springfield, Oregon. By quantifying soil climatic conditions and microbial activity on treatments with varying levels of organic matter and compaction, he is able to evaluate potential impacts related to long‐term availability of nutrients for tree growth. The purpose of this research is to ensure the continued productivity of areas for tree growth concurrent with the removal of forest residuals for bioenergy production.
Although both these students’ results are preliminary, their work is making a valuable
contribution to the NARA project as a whole and to the greater field of forestry research in
Belart, Francisca. (2014, April 22). Personal Interview.
Gallo, Adrian. (2014, April 22). Personal Interview.
Figure 1. Data Logger: http://www.pace‐www.pace‐sci.com/data‐loggers‐xr5.htm
Figure 1. Biomass pile: Francisca Belart.
Figure 1. Weather station: http://www.rainwise.com/products/detail.php?ID=6735
Figure 2. Gallo is using CO2 released from soil as a measure for microbial activity. Shown here is a gas analyzer (yellow) collecting soil respiration (white) while simultaneously measuring soil temperature and moisture (purple and black probes respectively).
Figure 2. LiCOR CO2 gas analyzer: Adrian Gallo