University of Idaho Joins Elite Forestry Research System

Monday, February 1 2010

Written by Sue McMurray

MOSCOW, Idaho – A $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will help University of Idaho forestry researchers solve industry-wide problems beyond the scope of what one institution’s scientific resources can provide.

The university will use the funding to establish a research site in the Center for Advanced Forest Systems. CAFS links top university-based forestry research programs in the U.S. whose broad, collaborative research helps solve forest industry-wide problems. By joining CAFS, the university will increase information sharing and optimize research in the areas of silviculture, biometrics, bioenergy, site resource availability, forest genetics and geospatial analysis of forest productivity.

“Joining CAFS puts the university in an elite class of forestry research institutions where we are collaborating on a wider range of forest management questions,” said Mark Coleman, lead investigator on the CAFS grant and director of the University of Idaho Intermountain Forest Tree Nutrition Cooperative. “Now we are looking at entire forest management systems as opposed to focusing on single questions, like genetics or nutrition. Studying the interaction is important because one aspect affects all others.”

A variety of forest industry problems await Coleman and his fellow researchers beyond the tree improvement and nutrition work that presently is underway in the College of Natural Resources. Insect pests are invading seed orchards in the Intermountain West and decreasing the yield of genetically improved conifer seed. The most destructive pests are the fir coneworm, the western conifer seed bug and the ponderosa pine cone beetle. Developing economically feasible management techniques to control several insect pests is just one area of innovation the university could bring to CAFS.

Another area involves identifying natural endophytes – or fungi – that are known to protect seedlings from native and invasive diseases. University of Idaho forestry scientists George Newcombe, Anthony Davis and Coleman plan to collaborate with Richard Meilan, Purdue faculty member, and Brian Stanton, Greenwood Resources research geneticist, to select beneficial endophytes and develop techniques for their application.

“Selection processes for endophytes with positive effects on their hosts have never been developed,” said Newcombe. “Although technology transfer to industry has occurred in Canada, endophytes currently are ignored by forest-products companies in the United States.”

Additional key benefits of the university’s involvement in CAFS include geospatial predictions of productivity in response to climate change. A project led by University of Idaho faculty Paul Gessler, Coleman, Paul McDaniel, Alistair Smith, Mark Kimsey and Tom Fox of Virginia Tech, would develop geospatial datasets to evaluate the potential impact of projected climate change scenarios on forest productivity and species type distributions across the Inland Northwest. Their results should provide the basis for making improved forest conservation and management recommendations.

“Joining CAFS allows the forestry faculty to continue to expand research opportunities from coast to coast,” said Coleman. “We must improve the productivity of our landbase and maintain it into the future to be able to meet society’s increasing demands.”
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit