Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture

netherlandswebLandon Emmert, senior forest wildlife management major, and Megan Knippers, senior human dimensions of natural resources major, (both pictured at left) dedicated 10 weeks of their summer break to collecting fire fuel load data in the Netherlands as part of ongoing research to address the threat of wildland fire in the Netherlands. Since 2012, Dr. Brian Oswald, Joe C. Denman Distinguished Professor of fire ecology at SFA, along with students enrolled in SFA's Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, have collaborated with public safety agencies in the Netherlands to collect fire fuel load data that will ultimately be used to develop a wildfire spread model that can predict wildfire behavior various regions of the country.

Where did your research take place in the Netherlands?
We lived in a small town called Wolfheze and biked to our research site which was about ten miles away. For two weeks we traveled to the southern portion of the Netherlands to collect data involving different plants. The rest of the time was spent near Wolfheze.

This project is part of ongoing research to collect fire fuel loading data, correct?
Yes. Our job was to collect plant specimens from the field. We would measure the diameters, heights, etc. of these plants and then bring them back to calculate SAV (surface area volume). This would involve separating the live material from the dead, as well as breaking down the twigs. Once broken down and separated, we would lay them out on a chart and count how much space each type of vegetation took up.We collected heather shrubs for the SAV calculations, as well as dune grass while we were in Zeeland. We took measurements on sea buckthorn while in Zeeland, but did not collect for SAV calculations.

What agencies did you work with while conducting this research?
We worked alongside the IFV (Instituut Fysieke Veiligheid) and the fire department located in Zeeland.

What was a typical day like in the field?
A typical day in the field started with an hour-long bike ride to our sampling location. Once there, we would collect five specimens per field day. Each specimen was measured individually, with one person using a meter tape as well as calipers to gather the data while another was responsible for writing down the data onto data sheets.

There was a Dutch student who was also conducting research at the same time as us and requested some assistance for days she could not collect for her project. While working for her, hourly measurements were taken involving the moisture content of the grass and heather shrubs in two plots. Once done with this, we would typically return home and start the process of separating the plants we had collected in the field.

What was your favorite aspect of this research?
We have both really enjoyed the unique experience that living in a country gives you in comparison to the experience you get when you are just visiting one, such as navigating grocery stores and understanding traffic patterns. Everything that goes into everyday life is both challenging and exciting to experience. I have enjoyed working with the people at the institute and working in the field. The Netherlands is a beautiful place to live and to work.

Have you had the opportunity to travel and sightsee on days off? If so, where did you go?
We made sure to set up our work schedule in a way that allowed for some room for exploring. When we first arrived, we spent most of our time staying local – first visiting the areas around our campsite and then starting to branch out to several different cities in the Netherlands. We have traveled to Germany a couple of times, Belgium once and France once. When we are finished with our time here in the Netherlands, we will travel to the UK to site see around London and the southern part of Britain before we return home.