M.S. candidate Curtis Prolic presented his graduate research to over 200 forestry professionals and scientists at the U.S. Forest Service National Silviculture Workshop in Flagstaff, Arizona. This meeting brought together the first large representation of foresters, land managers and research scientists for a stand-alone event since 2009. The three-day workshop utilized presentations and a field trip to disseminate information about the latest science and management issues in the field of forestry. Prolic was the sole graduate student from any attending university to give a formal research presentation at the meeting. In his case it was a practical rehearsal for his master’s thesis defense scheduled for September 14th.

“It was great experience, especially before my defense, to present my research in front of a group of people who have so much success and knowledge in the field of silviculture,” he said.

Prolic’s two-part research study focused on predicting the impact that climate change and increasing drought may have on Engelmann spruce regeneration and growth in southwest Colorado. He studied a drought event from 2000-2004 and found that seedlings in his sampling areas slightly increased their regeneration amidst these warmers years. Luckily, drought conditions at the time did not affect those cool, wet high-elevation stands.

Prolic also compared tree ring widths before, during, and after the same drought period in a national forest stand planted in 1970 with seed origins ranging from British Columbia to New Mexico. His research found that all sampled trees responded similarly to the same drought period.  “This was surprising because we expected trees from warm, dry seed sources to be better adapted to drought,” he said.

Prolic’s research has practical applications and suggestions for forest managers. Forest cutting and thinning operations that leave partial tree cover could be effective at shielding spruce seedlings from drought effects. In the case of a changing climate, Prolic’s research suggests that spruce trees from different genetic backgrounds may be able to grow in environments that differ from those they are originally adapted to. “Seed transfer guidelines could potentially be altered in the future to allow for non-local seed to be used if needed, but further research should be done,” he said.

Other CSU faculty research was also represented at the meeting. Linda Nagel, professor and department head of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, presented on the Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) national project along with five corresponding poster presentations about each ASCC regional project area.

A field trip to local sites was part of the 2017 National Silviculture Workshop.