Thursday, December 27, 2007

GPS satellite developments

GPS World discusses Russia's recent launch of three more GLONASS satellites. This brings the total available satellites to 18, enough for navigation in Russia. Russia hopes to have a complete constellation of GPS satellites working by 2009. There was a recent news story of President Putin with his dog showing how a GLONASS-based GPS tracking device was now possible.

This follows last week's successful launch of a new GPS satellite, also described in GPS World. The new GPS IIR-18 (M) satellite will replace an existing older unit. It provides a stronger civilian signal and some new capabilities for military navigation.

This news is exciting for anyone interested in GPS. Within a few years we will have the choice of receivers using NAVSTAR (American), Galileo (European), or GLONASS (Russian). There will certainly be combinations of the different systems for even better accuracy and reliability. The combinations may be subscription-based for the extra service. I am sure there will be intense competition among providers to provide good deals and packages.

Maybe they will even solve the problem of good reception under a closed forest canopy with a low cost receiver!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mass Tree Planting in Indonesia

I heard recently on NPR and the BBC News about a massive tree planting campaign in Indonesia. Governmenta agencies all over the country were planning to plant over 79 million trees! Indonesia is usually known for its deforestation of tropical forests and the overwhelming smog from forest fires.

From the reports I heard, I feel optimistic that this campaign may be successful. First, it is a locally initiated campaign. The people seem to be behind it, rather than having it imposed from outside. They have chosen some interesting species. In addition to teak and other timber species they will be planting fruit trees that people want.

As I saw in Africa, tree planting campaigns will only work if they have popular support. Otherwise it's just too hard to make the tree-planting a success. This doesn't resolve the problem of forest clearing and fires, but it does point in the right direction.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Anne Frank Chestnut Tree

One of the first blog entries I made last year was on the chestnut tree outside the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. This was the tree she mentioned frequently in her diary during her family's two year hiding from the Nazis.

The city of Amsterdam wants to remove the tree because of its advanced state of decay. Now, a year later, people who want to save the tree have sued to prevent it being cut. After hearing arguments on both sides a judge ordered the city to hold off until February. Here is a link to a BBC story on the tree.

It's interesting that the managers of the Anne Frank Museum at the house want the tree removed to prevent injury to visitors. They would rather replant a new, healthy tree. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Where am I?

Reading topographic maps is a critical skill for all foresters. We can use contour lines to see a landscape in three dimensions. Here students from the Forest Mapping class are matching their location to the features on a topographic map in the Michaux State Forest and the Waynesboro Watershed.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

SAF National Convention

There was a lot of good information that was given at the convention. The thing that I enjoyed the most was the job exibits. I enjoy talking to people about new things, and learning new things. I met one women that is a spokes person for this new product called bird water that you can put in the ground, and it will water your trees for 90 days. While testing the product, hte resultz are outstanding. also talking with other school about their programs and getting new ideas and sharing ideas to bring back to our own schools. The one schools Forestry Club does a cost scaring program for their forestry books. You rent the book for the semester and then you get your money back at the end when you return the book. The job fair wasn't that interesting to me because the majority of the jobs were for working out west in Oregon or sorrounding area. I met a man named Al who graduated from Mont Alto in 1937 he had a lot of great stories to share with us, and he will be sending me some pictures and videos that I will share with you. For anyone that is interested in SAF I would jump on hte opertunity to go to a national meeting, it is very educational, and a wonderful experience to be in a new place.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rethinking Fire Policy in the Tinderbox Zone

This article in today's New York Times stresses changes in building codes in California to protect new homes in the most dangerous fire zones. (It also has some good photos and maps.) The changes came about because of the damage from previous fires. Even the best built homes can't withstand a total fire. The authors stress that Californians continue to rebuild in the proven danger zones, as well as build new homes. I wonder how they are able to afford home owner's insurance

Friday, October 26, 2007

Convention at Oregon

First thing is first, the plane rides were a great experience for my first times flying. The convention center had interesting artwork, one was a large sculpture of a Ginkgo fruit. The bag that they gave out to everyone was nicer than the one they gave at Pittsburg. The thing(s) that I enjoyed the most was the job fair and the people that I met and heard. My favorite speaker was Richard Louv, who spoke about his concern about children not being able or just not bounding with nature. He is also the author of "Last Child in the Woods". One of the interesting people that I met was Erkki, who is from Finland. One of the things that he brought up was a question "How many lakes in Finland?". The answer that he gave me was 184,000+ lakes and the smallest lake is one acre in size. He said that 10% of Finland is water and the area where he lives is 25% water. Another interesting thing that Erkki said was that any last name ending with nen, meant that they are a Fin.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Richard Louv SAF Keynote Speaker

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods was the keynote speaker at the SAF Convention today. Before his prepared remarks he mentioned the fires in California. His home is in San Diego in the danger zone. So far his home is safe and hopefully will stay that way.

Louv evoked memories of growing up in Kansas City where he had his own forest behind his house. This was a place he could call his own. He spend hours there. He would even pull up surveying stakes he might find. This is a place that will be in his heart always. His theme is that this contact with the outdoors is vital for people. We need the outdoors.

For a number of reasons children are losing this contact with the outdoors. Electronic toys, parents' fears, and a too-structured lifestyle are just some of the reasons. He says that the increase in childhood obesity, increased ADD, and the increase of stressed children are just some of the consequences. In part he blamed his own profession, journalism, for creating a climate of fear by magnifying all the dangers out there, that results in many families keeping their children under house arrest.

He cited a number of initiatives and programs to get children back outdoors. Although he says it's unlikely we will ever go back to the days of letting children roam free, we have to make sure children have that connection to the outdoors that all people need.

He really connected to this audience of foresters. Just about all of us had our special outdoor place growing up. Most of us still have one today. He did inspire all of us to try harder to find ways to work with children. That will be good for them and good for the profession of forestry.

Here is a link to Louv's web page and a link to his books in Google search.

Louv did a book signing later in the day. There was a huge line, over a hundred people I guess, waiting. The SAF shop even sold out of the book.

New Tools at SAF Convention

The SAF convention is a great way to find new developments and new tools for foresters. The Portland convention is no exception. The USGS is demonstrating a new viewer for Landsat data. It has archival data and some of the most recent data from the current satellite. At the booth they showed how the imagery from various bands can be combined. I can't wait to have more time to look at it at home.

Another new tool is a brand new website interface for the FIA national forest inventory data. Previously, we had to wait for the inventory reports to come out in book form. Now the Forest Service has created a modern interface to zero in on the forestry statistics even down to the local data. The people demonstrating the site told me it just came on line last week. The help files aren't even up yet. It will be fun to learn.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mega-Fires on 60 Minutes

60 Minutes ran thought-provoking story on the increased number of extremely severe "mega-fires" in the West. Here is a link to the story on the CBS News page. The site has an article, video, and still pictures. (I'm not sure how long it will be up.)

Reporter Scott Pelley went to Idaho to visit a hot-shot crew on a fire line near Ketcham. He did an in-depth interview with Tom Boatner, who is the chief of fire operations for the federal government. Boatner confirmed that fires are larger and more frequent. He also mentioned changes in fire-fighting rules to let more areas burn if property is not threatened. They conducted the interview near the a burning fire and had to move downhill as the temperature increased!

Pelley also interviewed Tom Swetnam, a fire ecologist from the University of Arizona. Swetnam has studied the dendrochronological record and found that fire severity is much larger. They have a tremendous collection of aged cross-sections of old logs that recorded firest over the last few millenia. I am eager to look up some of his research articles.

Both Boatner and Swetnam cite climate changes towards drier conditions and a longer burning season. Global warming was mentioned several times as the cause.

Global warming may well be an underlying of the problem. But the direct causes are well known: a rapid increase in population, people building more in the wilderness area, and changes in forest management policy. The good news is that these problems can be fixed quickly if people want to. All in all, this was a very interesting report. I hope people pay attention.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ipe wood

Ipe wood is one of the coolest woods ever!! It is almost denser than water 0.9. It doesn't require chemical applications to prevent termite or mold damage. It even has the fire resistance of concrete or steel, though it will burn up eventually. Ipe wood is great for decking.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Old Railroad Ties

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

This stack of old railroad ties I found next to an exhibit of a restored railroad caboose in Norlo Park in Guilford township, Pa. The ties reminded me of how important creosote preservation was for the railroad and almost all other outdoor uses of wood.

Of course creosote, a type of oil, is very toxic. It also leaked from the wood creating even more hazards. The sites of creosote factories are Superfund waste sites. For example, the old creosote plant in Pensacola, FL was a massive cleanup headache. Fortunately, we have other ways to preserve wood. Railroad ties are often made from other materials. we should never forget about the imoprtance of creosote, though.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

One of the last Fire Lookouts

Today's New York Times has a feature article on Michael Gates who is a contract fire watcher on Saddleback Mountain in the Tahoe National Forest in California. Gates lives for five months of the year in a lookout shack atop the nearly 7,000 foot mountain. The article has some amazing pictures of life in the shack and views around the mountain.

Gates also has his own photo gallery with some amazing shots, many from the watchtower.

There are fewer and fewer manned lookouts (only 800 left) around as the US Forest Service and State Forest Services go to modern technologies. It takes a special person to endure living there. But I'm sure there are advantages to having a pair of human eyes watching the skyline for fires.

Many forest technology students want to work fighting fires. Not so many would want to work in a fire tower I think.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Woodland Owners Visit the Waynesboro Watershed

Mont Alto forest technology students led a tour of forest management and silvical activities on the Waynesboro Watershed for members of the Cumberland County Woodland Owners Association and the Waynesboro High School Envirothon team yesterday afternoon (9/22) Below is a map of the sites visited:

View Larger Map

At the reservoir Dave Gillen discusses the purpose of the watershed, butternut canker, the importance of hickories for biological diversity and wildlife feed, and stand dynamics in an old norway spruce plantation.




Matt Reitzel described a 20+ acre clearcut to remove some stagnant softwood plantations, the problems with invasive plants, the use of herbicides, the re-establishment of american chestnut, and hybrid loblolly pine planting.




Adam Luther described a hardwood removal cut to release oaks. The twenty acre site was then fenced to keep deer. Today the oak stand is doing very well. The acorns were falling like rain.






The deer fence is essential.



Click here to see the full set of pictures.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Gypsy Moth Egg Masses

The gypsy moth infestation has been very heavy in south central Pennsylvania this summer. It looks like next year will be equally as bad, or worse. These pictures are from Oak Road in the Michaux State Forest in Quincy, PA. Most of the oaks on this hillside are just covered in egg masses!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Interpreting Airphotos in the Field

Yesterday, students in the Aerial Photo Interpretation class (FORT 230) visited selected sites on the aerial photos they are studying. Using the principles of interpretation: shape, shadow, pattern, association, texture, tone/color, and relative size, they compared the scene on the photo with what is actually on the ground today.

Given that the sets of photos we are using were taken in 1977, the element of time must also be included in the interpretation. Some areas have been harvested and others have grow in from previous harvests. Little of the area has changed through human use, however.

Here is a Google map of the sites the class visited:

View Larger Map

Digital pictures were taken at each stop and then geotagged with the location coordinates. Follow this link to see the geotagged images on a Yahoo Map in Flickr. Picasa albums also offers geotagging on a Google map as shown in this link. Each provider and format has its own advantages. There is probably a universal tool out there to combine these into one view.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Oakworm Invasion in Boiling Springs, PA

This morning's Carlisle Sentinel has an article on a family's problems dealing with an outbreak of oakworms in their trees. They are understandably irritated with the falling caterpillar frass all over their yard. They are also worried that the defoliation would be be permanent, especially with the gypsy moth attacks, too.

The articles quotes experts from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and Cumberland Valley Tree Co. that oakworm attacks tend to be very localized. There is usually no need to spray, although homeowners can if they wish.

Forest pest stories seldom make the news unless there is something catastrophic going on. Few people know the war for existence going in the forest ecosystems just a few feet from their doors.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Forestry Students Enjoy Keystone Chapter SAF Steak Fry

Eleven forestry students joined the members of the Society of American Foresters PA Keystone Chapter for a steak fry and meeting at the Glatco Lodge in Hanover yesterday evening.

Retired Mont Alto professor Ken Swisher (right) watches his steak.

Mark Brown and Andrew Baker


Tiffany Roddy, Chance Yeackley, Loggan Droppa, and Craig Houghton


Chairman Mike Kusko. The business portion of the evening was to discuss plans for the upcoming Allegheny SAF regional meeting in February.

Logan Droppa and all the students introduce themselves to the group.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Greek Wildfire Catastrophe

The news all weekend has been full of the Greek wildfire story. Even the site of the birth of the Olympic games is threatened. Both the New York Times and The Washington Post have carried a story by John F. L. Ross with this quote:

Forest fires are common during Greece's hot, dry summers _ but nothing has approached the scale of the last three days. Arson is often suspected, mostly to clear land for development. No construction is allowed in Greece in areas designated as forest land, and fires are sometimes set to circumvent the law.

It shows that even in forest ecosystems prone to fire, their number and severity are strongly influenced by social considerations. The politics and economics of land ownership count a lot. This has been true every place I have worked, from Pennsylvania to Burkina Faso. The toll of human suffering from these fires is unimaginable. I hope they are put under control soon.

Here is a link to a photoset from a Greek photographer on Flickr.
Here is a link to the NASA image shown here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Class of 2009

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

The new forest technology students at Penn State Mont Alto gathered for new student orientation today. Even though the heat was intense, everyone stayed awake for the whole session! They can't wait to start field labs with hard hats next week!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Forestry Technology Instructors Meeting

Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

Forest technology is constantly evolving. Every year instructors gather for CEFTS (Council of Eastern Forest Technician Schools) meetings. We share teaching ideas and discuss issues such as new student recruitment, student retention, and accreditation. This year's meeting was held in Fort Kent, Me and sponsored by the University of Maine at Fort Kent. Everyone looks forward to the field visits and technical sessions. Among these were: the uses of GIS and GPS in timber harvesting, muskellenge fish migration on the Fish River, intensive silviculture in the spruce forests on Irving Co. forests, state forest lands management to protect wildlife habitat, and use conflicts along the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. We also visited the Tenth Mountain Ski Center, a world class biathlon facility. Check out the meeting highlights page here.

The photo shows the group at the Moose Point Camps near Portage.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Internship in Louisiana

From Tiffany Roddy:
I'm working for Weyerhaeuser this summer in the North Louisiana Timberlands Region. This region of the company manages nearly 750,000 acres in 22 parishes (counties) in Louisiana, 6 counties in eastern Texas, and 7 counties in southern Arkansas. There are around 53 employees and 45 logging contractors. Weyerhaeuser practices intensive forest management on even-aged stands that are mostly loblolly pine plantations. The company clearcuts around 20,000 acres a year, which they then site-prep and re-plant-- a total of nearly 9 million trees planted a year. Weyerhaeuser is also SFI certified. This region has two lumbermills and three veneer mills, with the major source of wood being supplied from company lands, followed by logs shipped in from other contractors, and then timber from private landowners.

As part of my summer internship, I have done various jobs with people of various positions in the company. So far, I have: cruised and marked timber and pulpwood on company as well as private lands; investigated disputes regarding property lines; inspected roads for BMP (best-management practices) audits; done audits on loggers for BMP work and safety equipment; located tracts and made maps on a GIS program; and compiled and checked tracts for future harvest and/or conversion.

I have worked in Louisiana and Texas so far and it is definitely a change of pace when compared to the hardwood forests of Pennsylvania. The advantage of our two-year program compared to a four-year degree is that we already have the technical training after our first year-- many people were very astonished that I knew how to cruise after only one year of school. Also, the system of mapping in Louisiana is the Section, Township, and Range, which makes it very easy to find where you need to go! I have only seen one alligator-- in the lake behind our office. I've also seen two roadrunners. But so far, I haven't seen any snakes- rattlers or mocasins- and I want to keep it that way!

The first picture is from a logging audit in east Texas. The machine behind me is a processor, which delimbs and cuts to length.

The second picture is of a longleaf pine in it's "grass stage," where it needs to be released by fire.

The third and fourth pictures are of a site prep machine that simultaneously shears rows and plows beds for planting seedlings. The beds are a pre-determined length, which is entered into a GPS receiver on the machine. This then directs the operator where to plow-- down to the foot.


The fifth picture is of me in front of a loblolly pine in Texas that is nearly 4 feet in diameter.

And last, but not least: everyone loves a log truck.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

PA Bans Firewood Imports

Pennsylvania banned most imports of firewood from out of state yesterday. Here is a report from TV station WGAL. The goal is to prevent the spread of parasites, such as the emerald ash borer that hitch a ride in the firewood. They could have banned just ash wood, but because it's hard for most people to identify species, they banned all of them.

In June, the PA Department of Agriculture announced the discovery of infected ash trees in several counties of western PA.

The emerald ash borer was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and is heading this way. It has the potential to destroy most of the ash trees in American forests.

Fortunately, firewood tends to be marketed only locally. Firewood is bulky, heavy, and has relatively low value compared to other forest products. It doesn't really pay to transport it very far. But I can imagine a scenario such as campers bringing a small quantity of wood for a camping trip. It only takes a few infected pieces to spread the insects.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Summer Camp 2007

Students in the forest technology program participate in a four week summer camp session which emphasizes timber harvesting (chainsaw use and safety and logging operations) and visits to forestry operations around the region. The work is all-day five days a week, but it's worth it! Here are some pictures from this year's class.

(Photos by Dr. Brantley and Tiffany Roddy)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dawn Redwood in Massachussetts

While visiting family in Westfield, MA I came across this fine example of a dawn redwood. It is located in a small park that is slated to be removed to accommodate a new bridge crossing. The city is trying to decide what to do with the tree. Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is a fast growing deciduous conifer that was discovered in China in the 1940's and had been considered extinct before. It grows very well in urban settings, although there have been problems with vigor from hybrid inbreeding.

According to a recent article in Westfield's newspaper, The Republican, the city now has to decide how to save the tree or whether to cut it down.
Thanks to Chris Morrill for showing me this tree.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mapping Mecca

Say Freeport, ME and people will automatically say LL Bean. But located in Yarmouth on Rte. 1 just outside Freeport is DeLorme, famous for its line of atlas and gazetteers of the 50 states. The company also produces its own GIS, diverse mapping software, and now its own GPS receiver. I visited the Map Store at DeLorme last week and wasn't disappointed. There are a large number of mapping books and tools available. They have the entire series of topographic maps for the State of Maine at 1:20,000. I bought some full-size vinyl map covers, a great way to store maps for viewing. I also got a large size UTM-grid and protractor, useful for plotting with topographic maps.

The best thing about visiting Delorme is seeing the giant globe, Eartha. It's a world record.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Another Online Mapping Tool

Use A Map

This is a new tool I found on the Ogle Earth Blog . Simply put, use a map lets you create a map location with a simple link address. When you click on the link you then have the option of viewing the map in Google, Yahoo, or MS Live. With new features you can also add pictures and other annotations.

Here is a map I made for Peaks Island, Maine:
Here is another for the Penn State Mont Alto campus:

It's easy to use and a great way to send maps to someone.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Woodsmen Team Show for Road Scholars

The Mont Alto Woodsmen's Team demonstrated Woodsmen's events for the visiting "Road Scholars" tour on Monday evening (5/14). This is an annual event for new Penn State faculty from all of the Univeristy's campuses to learn more about the Commonwealth over a three day tour of various locations. President Graham Spanier tries the two-man crosscut with Darren Krebs while other team members look on.
Here are articles in the local newspapers:
The Herald-Mail online and the Waynesboro Record Herald.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Grafting Workshop

Students in Dr. Brantley's Plant biology class got a lesson in tree grafting from Jack Winieski (Allegany SAF Executive Director) and Bruce Kile (retired PA Service Forester). In these pictures they are working on pine trees. In a later session they worked on apple trees. Grafting is as much an art as a science and takes a great deal of skill and experience. Thanks Jack and Bruce for your help.

(pictures by Bruce Kile)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Chainsaw Maintenance and Safety Training

Each May the freshmen forest technology students attend the four week intensive summer camp program. Timber harvesting is a big part of the program. Here, Stihl chainsaw expert, Ben Crago, gives the students tips on chainsaw safety and maintenance. In the summer camp program students will learn to strip down and clean, sharpen the chain, and do all-around maintenance of a chainsaw. All this before getting to use them in the forest. Thanks for your help Ben!
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