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Dr. Martin Dovciak Receives NSF Mid-Career Advancement Award 12/7/2022

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Photo of Dr. Martin DovciakThe SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), one of the nation's premier colleges focused exclusively on the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable future, is proud to announce that Dr. Martin Dovciak received a Mid-Career Advancement Award (MCA) from the National Science Foundation.

The award will help Dovciak advance his research—Data Science for Global Change-Does Plant Diversity Imply Forest Resilience?—which examines how plant diversity in the understory impacts the future of the forest.

While young tree seedlings in the forest understory can determine the character of the future forest, few studies have looked at how plant diversity may affect changes in tree seedling layer over time, according to Dovciak, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Biology. While some evidence suggested that more diverse plant communities should be more resilient to change, other studies suggested otherwise, he said. To remedy this problem, Dr. Dovciak will carry out an extensive study of what's happening in world's forest understories.

"Dr. Dovciak's research into how the diversity of the understory will impact future forests is key to understanding how forests work to protect our environment," said ESF President Joanie Mahoney. "We are proud of Dr. Dovciak's work and appreciate this well-deserved recognition."

Dovciak and doctoral student Joanna Lumbsden Pinto will travel to Panama in January to study tropical forest dynamics at Barro Colorado Island and census tree seedlings across a large regional moisture gradient across the Panama Isthmus. This is a collaborative project with Dr. Liza Comita of Yale University. Dovciak will use this data with tree seedling data he collected in his lab across montane boreal-temperate ecotones of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine and with data from worldwide forest inventories to study how changing climate influences forest understory tree seedling banks in different parts of the world.

"This is important since tree seedlings in forest understories influence what, if any, tree species ultimately grow into the forest canopy, so understanding tree seedling dynamics will help us understand how forests may change in the future due to changing climate," said Dovciak.

Species diversity varies between boreal, temperate, and tropical forests, and considering all these regions in a single model will help scientists understand the role of diversity in forest resilience to changing climate and contribute to a better understanding of the twin contemporary crises world forests face – that of climate change and that of biodiversity loss.

Dovciak joined the ESF faculty in 2007. He received his Ph.D. in forest ecology from the University of Minnesota. His research interests include plant ecology, forest ecosystems, global environmental change, biodiversity, and ecosystems management and restoration. He has received numerous awards and accolades for his research and teaching.

About SUNY ESF

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy, and management of the environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from the associate of applied science to the Doctor of Philosophy. ESF students live, study and do research on the main campus in Syracuse, N.Y., and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.