Yale Bulletin and Calendar

May 10, 2002Volume 30, Number 29Two-Week Issue

Ann Camp

Forest 'physician' contends fire
is critical to health of woodlands

The following story was adapted from the article by Frank Szivos, titled "Taking the Pulse of the Forest," that appeared in April in the debut issue of Environment: Yale, The Journal of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Ann Camp, lecturer and research scientist at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), is a kind of physician for forests.

Through her research, she has monitored the health of many forests in the inland Northwest, concentrating on late-successional and old growth forests on the east side of the Cascade Mountains in Washington.

Old growth and late-successional forests are important because many kinds of wildlife depend on them, notes Camp, who received her M.F.S. from F&ES in 1990. However, a century of keeping them free from fires has made many of them vulnerable to insects, pathogens and, most notably, catastrophic fires, she says.

"Many of our western forests historically burned on a regular basis and rarely developed late-successional structures and compositions," she explains. "Frequent, low-severity fires kept these forests open and park-like. Suppressing fires allowed once open forests to develop dense understories. Eventually these forests accumulate so much fuel in the form of dead trees and logs that a fire, once ignited, cannot easily be suppressed and the entire forest is consumed."

Camp has done extensive research on the amount and patterns of fire refugia -- places on the landscape that historically burned less frequently than the surrounding forest. In fire-regulated landscapes, such as those in eastern Washington, fire refugia served as reservoirs of plant and animal species associated with late-successional forests, she explains, noting that now they are important as "locations where late-successional forest habitat can be sustained on landscapes that are prone to burning." Through her research, Camp has created prescriptions for creating fire-resistant landscapes and healthier forests that have helped land managers create more sustainable habitats for spotted owls.

In addition to fire, Camp is interested in the effects of insects and diseases on forest ecosystems. "I've always been interested in the processes that create forest structures and how sometimes these same processes seem to run amok," she says. "Insects and pathogens can be important regulators of ecosystem function, and they contribute substantially to creating wildlife habitat, but sometimes -- especially with exotic insects and diseases -- insects and pathogens can have pretty severe impacts on our forests."

After more than a decade as a research ,forester with the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, Camp changed gears and returned to Yale as a member of the F&ES faculty. Last fall, she taught "Forest Stand Dynamics" and is teaching two courses this spring, "Forest Health" and "Fire, Ecosystems and People: A Global Perspective."

Camp has integrated into her teaching her knowledge of distance learning and computer-aided curriculum design by developing courses that address students' different learning styles. As she becomes more familiar with the southern Connecticut forests, she also hopes to incorporate more field trips and field-based activities in her courses.

In fact, Camp enlisted students in her fire course this spring to assist with a prescribed fire. She is working with doctoral student David Ellum on a prescribed burning plan for restoring a meadow and maintaining an oak savannah on the Yale-Myers Forest in Union, Connecticut. (See related story.)

"In New England, fires historically were important in developing and maintaining open forests dominated by oak. Unburned, many of these stands will develop a dense understory," Camp says. "We also see this prescribed fire as a tool for meadow restoration, improving wildlife habitat and reducing the threat of invasive, non-native plants."

In addition to her teaching, Camp is actively continuing her research. She recently coauthored a Congressionally-mandated research plan for improving the health of forests in northeastern Washington. She and some of her students are also assisting the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station on a project to assess the effect of such factors as root-rots and other pathogens on fuel buildup and potential fire behavior.

"I love teaching. That's why I came back here," Camp says. "I hope I can help students think about how forests develop and to use that knowledge to better integrate sustainable forestry and sustainable communities. We need to better predict where problems can arise and determine ways to reduce threats to forests -- in New England, the West and globally. It's a big job, but it's an exciting one."

-- By Frank Szivos


Fourteen honored for strengthing town-gown ties

President Levin visiting Mexico

Improving science education and research in U.S. is key . . .

African American Studies revisits origins, imagines future


Future of therapeutic cloning is focus of bioethics symposium

IN FOCUS: School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Forest 'physician' contends fire is critical to health of woodlands

Event explores how humans transformed 'The Chicken'

Press director to bid farewell to venture he helped build

Committee to help search for new Yale Press director

Exhibit features noted American artist's woodcuts

Quilts by African-American women of the rural South are on view

Yale golfers and tennis players are bound for the NCAA

Long-time teacher Charles Rickart dies; helped introduce 'new math'

Sociologist Roger Gould, a specialist on conflict and violence, dies

Homebuyer Program is extended with a special incentive

Yale Library launching changes to Orbis

Yale Center for British Art temporarily closing library collections this summer

Bulletin Home|Visiting on Campus|Calendar of Events|In the News|Bulletin Board

Yale Scoreboard|Classified Ads|Search Archives|Deadlines

Bulletin Staff|Public Affairs Home|News Releases| E-Mail Us|Yale Home Page