Elaina Marshalek

Maximizing Biodiversity Conservation in Tropical Production Forests Through Optimal Reserve Site Selection & Strategic Harvest Planning

With a rapidly increasing amount of tropical forest threatened by logging and land conversion, there is growing concern about retaining species diversity, and in turn, ecosystem sustainability. My research uses methods from the Operations Research field to incorporate ecological considerations for strategic planning in multi-use tropical forest landscapes. While past research has primarily focused on identifying sites for placing permanent reserves, my research develops optimization tools to create algorithms that apply principles of ecological sensitivity to both reserve patterns and harvest scheduling at once.I am utilizing recent advances in numerical optimization of integer programming problems to include spatial and temporal factors that until recently were difficult to solve with such precision. Varying harvesting patterns in response to species-specific spatial and temporal patterns in addition to reserve planning represents a promising new method inform future sustainability standards for forest management, thereby helping to conserve species diversity and maintain ecosystem function.

Message to Sponsor

The SURF fellowship has allowed for total immersion into my field of research. The learning curve for mathematical programming changes dramatically when one can get into the groove of 8-hour increments each day! The funds have given me the time to become an everyday member of my lab, learning and collaborating with an impressive group of graduate students, postdocs, and professors. With this opportunity, I will be well equipped to not only finish my thesis, but also to turn the information into actionable and publishable recommendations and to develop skills for the long term.
  • Major: Operations Research & Management and Conservation & Resource Studies double major
  • Sponsor: Pergo SURF L&S major
  • Mentor: Matthew Potts, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management