Research Narrative

I chose the topic of Pine Beetles because I have lived in Fort Collins, Colorado for most of my life.  In the past, my family would often drive through the mountains on Sunday afternoons, and I have enjoyed the mountains the 14 years that I have lived here.  Because of my experience with the mountains, it is not easy for me to dismiss that many of the pine trees, and in some places it seems like all of the trees, have turned red and died due to the Mountain pine beetles outbreak.  My awareness has been increased by my father who is currently a forestry master’s student at Colorado State University.  His research paper for graduation is on a different issue under the same broad topic of pine beetles.  Because of my belief that it is the responsibility of humans to take care of the earth, it is my opinion what is right and wrong for situations involving nature depends on how it affects the ecosystem and what people can do for it.  Due to all these things, I am concerned about the recent outbreak of Mountain pine beetles in the Rocky Mountains.

The group I am part of started out looking at several possible issues including prevention of the infestation, fire danger associated with the dead trees, what can be done with the beetle kill, and information about the pine beetles.  I began by looking into the issue of prevention and basic information on the topic.  For this stage of research I primarily used Google, just typing in different phrases to receive different results.  One of the most helpful websites I found through this search was a CSU page.  It gave a lot of information about the beetles, the trees, control and prevention of the beetles.  Another article showed the amount of land and severity of dead trees caused by the outbreak.

The group has since decided that it is more useful to argue for products that can be made from the wood since the damage has already been done. Because of this, my attention has turned more toward uses of beetle kill and issues involved with removing the dead trees.  Again, I mostly looked through search engines on the web, mainly Google but a little with DogPile.  I also used research databases, like Web of Science, to find academic articles.  After a while I used resources to find different sources that might be helpful.  An example of this is scanning under the “References” on Wikipedia for titles that sounded like they might have information on products made from beetle kill.  Because my father is knowledgeable on the topic, I asked him for uses of the wood which I then looked up, namely fuel for pellet stoves.  I tried finding websites I did not think other people in the group would use or other media that is not very common, such as radio and news program and blogs.  I would have liked to use a book but could not find any that seemed appropriate.  In the end I used a blog, a TV news story, a magazine, an academic article, three websites, a radio show, and an interview.  There are several other websites that I found in my initial research that might be good for explaining the exigency.

Some themes I found while doing the research were information on the number of trees killed (1.5 million acres of trees in Colorado according to Newsweek.com), information on Mountain pine beetles, the types of trees most often hit (mostly ponderosa and lodgepole pine), and prevention.  Some critical subjects I found were the difficulty in using the wood (which is helpful to know so that the group can explain ways around it or how we can change it so that it is not a problem), biochar, and pellet stoves.   It surprised me how many ways the beetles can be prevented, including naturally, and some of the uses of the wood.  I had never heard of biochar, which is a product to help plants grow, so that application interested me.  Some things that I had not yet thought of but did not really surprise me were the problems encountered in removing the wood from the forest and how much land has been designated wilderness.

Some people who would be interested in the debate might include naturalists, people who often go to the mountains around where the trees have been hit, and government officials who are involved in deciding what can and cannot be done to the trees, especially those in what has been deemed wilderness.

After doing this research, my position has not really changed because I did not have much of one in the first place.  Through this project, I have become much more educated in the effects of the Mountain pine beetles and what the beetle kill can be used for.  I have always believed that the wood should be used for something, and all the uses appear to utilize the wood for something beyond just removing the dead wood so that the forests have a better chance of growing back, which will take many years.  I would have to do more research into wilderness before developing an opinion on what should be done with that land.

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