Brubaker, Johnson ’16 Publish on Carbon Storage - Hobart and William Smith Colleges
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Brubaker, Johnson ’16 Publish on Carbon Storage

“Today, more than ever, it is crucial that we find ways to mitigate the effects of climate change, and maximizing carbon storage in forests may be a tool,” says Quincey Johnson ’16, who, with Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Kristen Brubaker and Pennsylvania State University Professor Margot Kaye, explore this idea in a new article published by the Canadian Journal of Forest Research.

The study, titled “Spatial patterns of tree and shrub biomass in a deciduous forest using leaf-off and leaf-on lidar” sheds light on how site factors including topography may influence the distribution of biomass across the landscape–that is, how carbon storage within plant material is affected by a variety of features in the surrounding environment such as terrain and underlying bedrock.

Brubaker, Johnson and Kaye examined data collected from watersheds in the Susquehanna Shale Hills in central Pennsylvania. Research occurred over a three-year period beginning in 2014 with help from HWS students on campus and in the field.

“If we can understand what types of forests have the potential to store more carbon, we can prioritize our conservative efforts and focus on the types of sites that store more carbon,” explains Brubaker.

The study also contributes to the field’s understanding of LiDAR, a data collection similar to radar that uses light waves instead of radio waves for a efficient, cost-effective method of examining carbon storage.

Johnson, now a corps member for the Wildlife Conservation Society in its Montana outpost, says Brubaker was “instrumental in getting me involved in the scientific world.” Johnson’s projects with Brubaker and Associate Professor of Biology Bradley Cosentino “sparked my interest in working in the conservation field, but also provided me with the experience and knowledge to do so.”

Brubaker and Johnson previously collaborated on research in Sardina, Italy, with support from the National Science Foundation in 2015. The pair examined how environmental practices impacted agriculture and ecosystems throughout the nation, and Johnson later completed her Honors research on carbon distribution of forests under Brubaker’s direction.

Brubaker’s research revolves around remote sensing data to improve understanding of hydrologic, soil and terrain processes and how they impact forest landscapes. Her scholarly interests also include agroforestry, impacts of Marcellus shale and effects of land use history on current vegetation communities. Her research has appeared in the journals Canadian Journal of Remote SensingEarth Surface Dynamics and Hydrology and Earth System Science, among others. Brubaker, who joined the faculty in 2012, received a B.S. and Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, and a M.S. from Mississippi State.

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