Saturday, December 09, 2006

Squirrel Nests

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

Leaf drop can reveal hidden aspects of the environment. In this yellow poplar on the Mont Alto campus all the squirrel nests now show up. It's like a squirrel condominium complex.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Forester Web Sites

In the Forestry Computer Applications course students learn many computer techniques that are needed in forestry such as spreadsheets and document preparation. Communication in the digital requires knowledge of the web. Here are the sites that this fall's students are developing. Remember, they are works in progress.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pennsylvania Deer Season

Tomorrow is the start of Pennsylvania's two week statewide deer hunting season. As this article in the Harrisburg Patriot News shows there is still a great deal of mistrust among hunters of the increased doe limits and the concurrent doe and buck season. (See the PA Game Commission site, where I linked to this picture.)

Many of the hunters are saying that deer are becoming scarcer and harder to find. The article points out that with more bucks surviving each year, they are becoming more wily and better able to evade hunters. In any case, it's still true that in much of Pennsylvania it is impossible to regenerate a hardwood forest without a big investment in deer fencing. See my previous post. It doesn't make sense to allow one use of the forest (deer hunting) to monopolize all the other uses and even deter efforts to regenerate forests for future use.

I truly hope this year's hunt goes off in safety with no hunter accidents.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Shifting North Pole

The December 2006 National Geographic has an amazing map of the 700 mile movement of the North Magnetic Pole since its discovery in 1831. If it keeps on moving like it has in the past, it will be in Russia in a few years. The accompanying notes by Joel K. Bourne, Jr. indicates the pole is moving at a rate of 25 miles a year! The article suggests that "... it might be be time to trade that trusty compass for a handheld GPS."

Actually, compasses are very reliable on a day to day basis while GPS receivers are subject to periodic outages and loss of signal under certain conditions. I recommend carrying both into the field. A magnetic compass needs no batteries, while a GPS offers a large number of navigation and tracking tools.

I looked on the National Geographic web site to see if the map in the magazine is online. As of today it isn't. But they do have this news article from last December describing research by Joe Stoner, a paleomagnetist at Oregon State University. He has found that the movement of the pole is completely normal. It gives researchers a window into the liquid iron core at the center of the earth. It also influences the aurora borealis!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Forest Fires and Global Warming

Mont Alto alumnus Eric Straley sent me this news link about a study of the long term effects of forest fires in northern (spruce fir) forests. It seems that the fire releases large quantities of carbon and pollutants at first. But the next year the same site with longer lasting snow cover and light-colored hardwood regrowth will actually reflect light back to space which would reduce global warming. It takes at least 80 years for the dark-colored softwood forest to be re-established.

The article quotes the researchers as saying that wildfires are just one factor in global warming and this issue needs more study to understand what's going on. However, as global warming is a long term phenomenon made up of the sum of all activities on earth I get a little skeptical about the importance of individual studies of one part of a very complicated system. It's not enough to really decided how to change policies and actions.

Thanks, Eric, for the interesting article and stay warm in Anchorage, AL!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ann Frank Chestnut Tree to be Cut Down

Officials in Amsterdam have concluded that the Anne Frank chestnut tree is too badly infected to be saved and should be cut down. According to news accounts the 150-170 year old tree has been attacked has been attacked by an aggressive fungus and a moth, called the horse chestnut leaf miner.

In her diary, written while her family was hiding from the Nazis in an apartment in a nearby warehouse the teenage Anne wrote movingly how the tree inspired her and gave her hope.

Here is a link to a website with information on the tree and the people it has inspired. Officials at the Anne Frank museum are planning to plant a new chestnut sapling after the old tree has been removed in the next few weeks.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Google vs. Yahoo! Imagery

The image above is a screen capture from an amazing map hack by Sergey Chernyshev that puts Google (left) and Yahoo! maps side by side. To get the above comparison of the Waynesboro Reservoir in the Waynesboro Watershed (where we hold many labs in the Penn State Mont Alto forest technology program) first go to this web address: . Then enter these search coordinates: 39.818300 -77.455734 (latitude and longitude). Make sure to choose satellite imagery to see just the images or hybrid to see the images and roads.

Both images are high resolution, high quality. Online mapping services tend to have spotty coverage of the best imagery around the US. Google shows a winter scene, where the reservoir is frozen. Yahoo! shows a slightly color enhanced summer scene. The road networks use the same data from Navteq. It' great to be able to see them together side by side.

Online mapping is a trend. It's likely that foresters and other natural resource managers will be using these tools in the future to improve their understanding of the forests and to make field work more efficient. Thanks, Sergey, for this new tool.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Plant a Billion Trees,2933,228198,00.html

Wangari Maathai, who was just the keynote speaker at the Soc. of American Foresters Convention in Pittsburgh, is calling for a billion trees to be planted to slow global warming. I admire her reliance on citizen groups and women power rather than government programs. They have a greater chance to succeed in the long run. What a change that would make!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We are here.

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

Student Ryan Thrush is entering a waypoint with a Garmin 60 GPS receiver. We have had good luck with this model. It is versatile and fairly easy to learn.

Learning GPS

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

GPS receivers have become ubiquitous tools for forestry field work to locate forest inventory plots, mark trails, and a host of other tasks. Here students in the Forest Mapping Systems class at Penn State Mont Alto are returning from recording waypoints on a trail in the Michaux State Forest.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Deer Fencing

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

To regenerate a forest in Pennsylvania deer fencing is a must. Here in the Michaux State Forest next to Penn State Mont Alto campus a deer fence has been set up to allow oak regeneration after a thinning in a pine stand. The gate is to let people in, but keep deer out.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Follow this link to the PA Forest Fire Museum Association Web site:

More forestry tools

More of Jim Nelson's tools. At the center is a chain (66 feet) made up of 100 links. The rulers are log rules.
In this photo is a student-made clinometer, possibly from Mont Alto. An old washer provides the plumb weight. The instrument has several scales, such as percent, degrees, and tree height at one chain. Posted by Picasa

Pennsylvania Forest Fire Museum Annual Meeting

Yesterday was the annual meeting of the PFFMA in Chambersburg. Here is the group shot. There were some interesting developments for the museum project. A temporary museum will soon be opening in the old office building at Caledonia State Park.
Also, Guilford Township has made available office space in a restored farm building in Norlo Park to the PFFMA

This is part of a display of fire watch towers.

Jim Nelson brought a display of old axes and forestry tools. He described how blacksmiths from the colonization onward modified European methods to make axes adapted to American conditions. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pennsylvania's hardwood forests are among its most valuable resources. Black cherry from PA is famous around the world. The hardwood industry accounts for thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to the economy. It is good to know that there are scientists working hard on conserving and improving hardwood species. The Hardwood Tree Improvement & Regeneration Center at Purdue University (with support from the USDA Forest Service)

Scientists at the center are doing basic and applied research on species such as black walnut, red and white oak, green ash, and many others. Most of their research results are directly available from the web site. This is very handy for students doing research projects and foresters looking for practical information. Here is an article entitled: Successful Stock Production for Forest Regeneration: What Foresters Should Ask Nursery Managers About Their Crops (and Vice Versa).
It's well worth a look.

Monday, October 30, 2006

G.P.S. on the Road and in Your Pocket - New York Times

G.P.S. on the Road and in Your Pocket - New York Times

This article compares three different GPS receivers for road navigation: one built into an Acura dashboard, one a high-end Garmin, and the last a specially equipped cell phone. None of these units is useable in forestry. But they are what many people expect now from GPS. The technology is always advancing.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wind and Trees

Saturday night's high winds were enough to topple this white pine tree in my back yard. Fortunately, the top fell in a driveway, not causing any property damage.

The tree's leader had been destroyed (white pine weevil?) leaving a cup in the crown formed the side branches turning up, where water could stagnate and rot could enter.

The tree sheared along the rot, which shows as black in the remaining wood of the stem. It can also be seen in the adjoining end of the broken top.

A tree's true health shows during the stress of windstorms.

 Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 27, 2006

Aerial photo and GIS developments

There were so many great sessions in Pittsburgh. Here are a few that I especially remember.

Clarence Neese from Orbis discussed how organizations could save time and money by using online mapping systems such as Google maps, Microsoft's Local Live , or Yahoo! Maps to display their data. Using the API's or programming interfaces provided they then only have to build an interface for their own data needs. Their are also other pay services, such as ESRI's that provide mapping data and an interfaces. Organizations save by not needing to support a large database of imagery. Also, they can deliver products over the internet. The world of GIS is advancing rapidly.

Later I visited the ORBIS booth and asked them if traditional film-based aerial photography was still common. I was surprised to learn that digital sensors are rapidly becoming more common. They are now fast enough and have storage capacity to hold full flight runs. This digital data can be used in many applications with little processing. I was concerned about the loss of stereoscopic viewing with digital, but it is easy enough to use a DEM (digital elevation model) to display the data in 3-D and from any angle! I really need to evaluate what we're doing in the Aerial Photo Interpretation course. Here's the Orbis web site:

California Fire Burns Virtually Out of Control - New York Times

California Fire Burns Virtually Out of Control - New York Times

Fighting wildfires is always dangerous. This morning at the SAF convention, Exec. VP Michael Goergen called for a moment of silence and prayers for the families of the lost firefighters. Amen! I hope that the remaining person makes a full recovery.

Many forestry students at Mont Alto have worked in fire crews in past summers. They have ususally had an excellent experience. I'm sure their families are happier still when they return safely back to school in the fall.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

From the convention center deck

 Posted by Picasa

Unusual bench

What species of wood is this?

 Posted by Picasa

Keynote address

It was inspiring to hear the keynote speaker this morning. Dr. Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts at organizing women to plant trees and conserve soils in Kenya. As a researcher of tick parasites of cattle at the University of Nairobi she noticed the streams turning brown and the soils eroding. She also listened to women talking about their need for fresh water, food, and other resources.

She worked with foresters, but found that they didn't have the fruit and indigenous trees that women needed. The women didn't have the technical skills of "foresters with diplomas", yet they could develop their own skills as "foresters without diplomas".

Her work also led to efforts to preserve green spaces and public forests. This was dangerous at the time as the dominant political powers were determined to sell off resources (lands) as quickly as possible (more often than not with under the table payments). Her groups were successful at saving Nairobi's Central Park in the face of the bulldozers!

She emphasized the need for all of us to reduce, reuse, and recycle resources. She also talked about the need for debt relief for African nations. Why should the people pay for money squandered by corrupt officials? She made a good case. The banks and governments from developed countries are literally profiting from the misery of the people of underdeveloped nations.

Her efforts make us realize how important forestry is to maintain and improve the quality of life for everyone. Also, forestry is social. You have to work and communicate with people. There's no hiding in the forest!

Mont Alto Forest Tech Students at SAF

Back row Mick McCormick, Loggan Droppa, Alex Dinunzio, Andrew Baker, and Rob Ferrence. Front row: Cristie Shull, Angella Kellert, Chance Yeckley, Tiffany Roddy, and Ryan Thrush Posted by Picasa

Start of Quiz Bowl

This was the scene at the start of the Student Quiz Bowl
at the SAF Convention. After many, many rounds of 10 questions each, the University of Arkansas won. There were some hard questions and some good answers. Beth Brantley and Jamie Murphy of Penn State did a great job putting the Quiz together. And many Penn State University Park and Mont Alto students volunteered to help out with timing and score keeping. Posted by Picasa

SAF Convention Day 1

Driving west from Shippensburg to Pittsburgh this morning I was amazed by the foliage, which is near maximum in southern PA. You can really pick out the different species of trees on the hillsides. This is why many aerial photo missions are flown in the at this time of the year!

I stopped at the Somerset rest area, which has a great view of the line of giant windmills. These generators promise completely renewable power; yet there is some controversy. The windmills are large and each one requires several acres of forest to be cleared. There is also the need for an access road. There is a possibility for some birds and bats to be affected. But I think the need for energy is so great now that we will have to find a way to deal with the objections.
Now, as for driving in downtown Pittsburgh...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Journal of Forestry

Today I received my September Journal of Forestry. Is the production schedule for these slipping? The cover shows American forestry students in Tian An Men Square in Beijing, China. There are several articles on introducing a research experience for undergraduates which seem to describe Trips to and work in China. Looks interesting.

There is an intriguing title: "Has the myth of the omnipotent forester become the reality of the impotent forester?" It sounds provocative and I can't wait to have time to read it.

They are now showing a new web address on the cover: When I tried it, it seems to be an alias that brings you to the Journal page on the SAF website. I'm happy to see the publishers have a bigger web presence.

Monday, October 23, 2006

SAF 2006 National Convention

SAF 2006 National Convention

On Wednesday I am leaving for the Society of American Foresters national convention in Pittsburgh. It is less than three hours away on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We have 12 students coming from Mont Alto. I hope to comment on different events at the convention and post pictures, too.


I teach in the forest technology program at Penn State University, Mont Alto campus. I will use this blog to comment on any forestry items I come across. Also, I will use it to comment on forestry professional meetings, etc.