FARMINGTON — Andrew Barton, University of Maine at Farmington professor of biology, has been awarded a $300,000 grant to determine if an instrument on the International Space Station can help predict recovery from the 2011 Horseshoe 2 forest fire in Arizona.

Andrew Barton UMF photo

Barton and Helen Poulos of the College of the Environment at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, will co-lead a team of five researchers whose three-year goal is to explore forest stress and recovery in the mountains of southern Arizona.

Barton and his team were one of 14 applicants to receive the NASA funding and the first ever application of ECOSTRESS for wildfire-related research.

The research will use imagery gathered by a radiometer, a remote sensing instrument that can measure the temperature of plants to estimate stress to a highly accurate degree and throughout the day.

An important part of the research is to test the potential of the ECOSTRESS instrument for many applications, ranging from the efficient design of cities to reduce heat stress to improving irrigation for crops to better understanding the interaction of the atmosphere and ecosystems in a warming world.

The International Space Station. NASA photo

“Wildfires are becoming a major problem in many parts of the world, including the Southwest,” Barton said. “Our goal is to better understand the impacts of this environment change on forests.”

During the first year, Barton and his team will attach equipment to plants in the Arizona Sky Island Pine-Oak forest to measure water movement to reveal daily and seasonal patterns of plant function and stress, as well as verify the data coming from ECOSTRESS instrument.

UMF students will have the opportunity to be research assistants during the second and third years of the project.

Researchers from Northern Arizona University will also be working with Barton and Poulos on the project.

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