The general theme of my research is urban tree biomechanics. Biomechanics is the integration of plant growth and development and structural engineering theorem. I’m looking at how trees during growth and development build themselves so they can withstand environmental loading such as windstorms and ice storms and snowstorms.
Currently I’m working with a couple of graduate students and looking at trees around the power line corridors. We’re looking to integrate the use of LiDAR and tree stability to understand where trees are more likely to fail and cause power outages. The LiDAR is helping us identify trees and we’re using the biomechanics to look at soil stability, root stability and trunk stability. The research is still ongoing, and one of the most interesting things for me is the integration of all the current technology because I’m still new to the world of LiDAR.
If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?
Most likely I’d be working with an industry research firm. The two largest tree care companies have research arms in other parts of the country, so I wouldn’t be here.
Moment you knew what you wanted to study?
My undergraduate degree was actually in forestry and wildlife. It was hard, even though I was very active in the clubs and research, to find a job. I found a temporary job in arboriculture out in California. After a couple months, I realized this was my profession. It felt right. I jumped on a job that allowed me to move across the country and it felt like it was the right direction for me.
Moment you knew what your current role was right for you?
I first thought I would like to teach and be a professor in my junior or senior year as an undergrad. Working as a master’s student and being able to sit as a TA and start teaching students, it was during that time when I realized that teaching was the right direction.
I was teaching a wildlife habitat management class and just trying to help students learn to identify plants and understand the field, and it felt good.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
This will sound really sappy, but wherever my family is, wherever my wife and two children are. Wherever they’re at is where I want to be.
Favorite part of social distancing?
I set myself up well with the last answer! Spending time with my family. At lunchtime, I get to spend time with my daughters, and I get to spend the evenings with my wife and my daughters. They’re teenagers, so having that extra time to spend with them is really wonderful.
Least favorite part of social distancing?
Zoom education. Delivering a lecture via Zoom is better than just doing 100 percent read the material yourself, but I prefer to be in the classroom interacting with the students face-to-face. The lack of face-to-face is really the biggest drawback.
Just for Fun
Favorite book: Catcher in the Rye
Favorite movie/tv show: History of the World, Part 1; The Great British Baking Show
Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: Dyer Straits, The Beatles
Favorite local restaurant: Ta-Khrai Cafe
Favorite local activity: Hiking, bike riding on rail trails, in research forests