Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thomas Grant becomes assistant research professor of sustainable forest management

Thomas Grant is pictured with his wife Corrie.
After a year and a half as a post-doctoral researcher with SNRAS, Thomas Grant has been appointed as an assistant research professor of sustainable forest management.

Grant earned his B.S. at the University of Denver, master’s at the University of Colorado and his Ph.D. at Colorado State University. His interests are plant and forest ecology, dendrochronology and dendroclimatology, plant successional dynamics, soil microbiology and plant/soil feedback.

His research and career have taken him to the Sevilleta LTER in New Mexico where he did repeated measuring of permanent vegetative plots, H.J. Andrews LTER at Oregon State University where he studied wood decomposition and the Denver Botanic Garden where he researched rare plant conservation and restoration. At the DBG he was manager of research and conservation programs and worked seed banking, restoration and rare plant conservation.

He has also researched the endangered skiff milkvetch which is unique to Gunnison, Colo. “That was the hallmark of my work,” Grant said, “crawling on the ground looking for plants" (sarcasm).

Grant’s doctoral research focused on how invasive species react to soil, specifically how interactions with microbes and nutrients the establishment and invasiveness of exotic knapweeds.

He conducted greenhouse studies of native and invasive plants in competition. Native plants were influenced by microbes, while the invasive plants didn’t care what other plants they were competition against. “They were influenced by different types of competition and if we understood it better we could manage it better,” Grant said.

As for his teaching philosophy, Grant said teaching is not unlike a comedy routine, but should include information you expect the students to value and remember. “I like to engage students in the subject and empower people,” he said.

His instructional experience includes teaching botany for botanical illustrators at the DBG and conducting a two-week intensive workshop in applied plant conservation for students from all over the world. At the University of Denver he was a biology lab instructor and at CSU was a teaching assistant. In the fall of 2011 he taught NRM 101 for SNRAS while the professor was on sabbatical.

In the summer of 2012, Grant did a BLM fire history study in the White Mountains, particularly focusing on caribou lichen and forest regrowth after fire. “Age of the forest stand was the most important predictor of lichen,” Grant said. Although elevation, 700 to 800 meters, and aspect was also important.

For the BAKLAP project, Grant will help with the operational regeneration assessment in Fairbanks, Delta Junction and Tok areas and build a data atlas of forest research, a consolidation of forest research and resampling of priority projects.

“We need to understand how trees are influenced by climate and also understand insect outbreaks,” Grant said. “BAKLAP includes management and education. It’s exciting to have those ties. We want to take the information and make it useful, to help bridge the gap between us, industry and agencies.”

“There are a lot of opportunities to build relationships and sustain them.”
Thomas Grant in the field, summer 2011. (Photo by Glenn Juday)

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