Big thinking leads to big reward for MSU environmental scientist

William Kleindl, an assistant research professor in the MSU Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, recently received a $312,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will allow him to study the influence of overarching forest management decisions for the health of forests that are currently chosen based on local scales.

The National Science Foundation’s Macrosystems Biology and Early National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Science Program awarded $1.2 million in total for MSU to conduct research along with the University of Florida, University of Alabama, University of Wisconsin, Colorado State University and Boston University. The Macrosystems Biology and Early NEON Science Program encourages research aimed at better understanding and predicting both small and large scale effects on climate from “land-use changes on living systems.”

Tracy Sterling, head of the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, said Kleindl has an “amazing background across a wide range of scientific disciplines and land management experiences.” Kleindl specializes in the disturbance ecology and socioecological systems is and explains that a majority of the world’s forests are managed at small, local scales to provide goods and services, but on a much greater level, forests are responsible for things like regulating weather.

“Little is known how these forest management decisions influence forest ecology from regional to continental scales,” says Kleindl. This in mind, his research goal is to combine the growing understanding of the interaction between forest ecosystems and humans into “relevant policy and management.”

Maps of the different forest management types will be created through research using satellites across the U.S. computer models, and will then be used to estimate forest elements under different management and environmental scenarios. A major breakthrough from this research will be evaluating the change in forest policies compared to the “direct effects on forests from human-driven disturbances such as climate change and pollution,” says Kliendl.