Rob Roth wins EMS poster competition

p>GeoVISTA Graduate Associate Rob Roth took first place in the annual College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Graduate Student Poster Exhibition with his poster, "Using the AutoPASS method to determine the optimal lands for reforestation in the Baraboo Hills Forest of Southcental Wisconsin."

Rob's research attempts to formalize an automated and cost-efficient method for the selection of restoration sites and was completed in collaboration with Professor A-Xing Zhu of UW-Madison and students Jesse Papez and Eric Holbus. Their particular case study looked at a reforestation project in the Baraboo Hills Forest of southcentral Wisconsin undertaken by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The targeted species for protection were deemed 'edge-sensitive' due to increased competition, predation, and parasitism that occurs along the patch edges. Such edge-sensitivity further reduces the available habitat and increases the degree of patch fragmentation. Because of this, the goal of the restoration project was to add interior area, not total area, and further, to add a positively disproportionate amount of interior area compared to the actual area reforested. The team tackled this as a problem of shape, as the minimization of perimeter along with the maximization of area produces a patch with an increasing percentage of its area in the interior. Using convolution, they generated a local analysis that ranked or prioritized each potential restoration site (deemed to be one acre of area by TNC) based on its ability to both decrease perimeter and increase area. In the application of the method (which we lovingly named AutoPASS - AUTOmated Patch Analysis for Site Selection) on the Baraboo Hills Forest, we identified 950 acres of land as high priority for restoration, as collectively they would produce 2,227 new acres of interior forest (a 57% return on the investment). Such a method provides a quick, automated approach to the selection of sites for restoration that optimizes the allocation of resources for a restoration project.

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