It's Prescribe Fire Season!

The Lowman Lab participated in three prescribed fires in February. On February 15, the North Carolina Forest Service in partnership with Wake Forest University and Reynolda Gardens ignited the meadow on the front lawn of the Reynolda House propertry. Spectators gathered to observe the spectacle. The fire was a land management strategy to stave off woody encroachment an thin the grasses which are home to myriad local flora and fauna. The second fire, on February 29, occured on privately owned lands about 60 miles southeast of Winston-Salem, maintained for ground nesting bird habitat preservation. On April 04, David and Nick were on site at Falls Lake for a 93 arcre prescribed burn in a mixed pine forest. We deployed a network of thermocouples inside the burn area, recording temperatures during the fires. Nick also collected vegetation density data as part of an ongoing project monitoring vegetation regrwoth dynamics following fire. 

Reynolda Meadow near Wake Forest (Feb 15)

Grissom Field near Asheboro NC (Feb 29)

Falls Lake north of Durham, NC (April 2)


Lowman Lab Heads to AGU in San Francisco

Members of the Lowman Lab presented their research at the AGU Fall Meeting 2023 in San Francisco, CA December 11-15. Dr. Lowman convened the Frontiers in Ecohydrology and was invited to give a talk titled "A framework for quantifying drought impacts by integrating dynamic water storage and vegetation phenology."  Graduate and undergraduate students presented posters showcasing their research. David Carchipulla-Morales presented his work on leaf wetness and Kirstin Murr's work on calibrating and deploying 3D printed fog gauges. Sarah Marmolejos showed her updated work on validating a VPD dataset for all of the Continental US. Nick Corak participated in a poster session on prescribed fire where he discussed his work comparing different datasets tracking vegetation regrowth after prescribed fires. Matthew Barnes presented his senior thesis where he has implemented a machine learning algorithm to estimate vegetation density after wildfire in the Okefenokee Swamp on the Florida/Georgia border. And Mireya Reyes was able to present her independent research project on adapting a machine learning algorithm to predict vegetation indices at a 10 m spatial resolution to study the detrimental effects of wildfire in California. 

Mireya Reyes and Sarah Marmolejos awarded AGU Student Travel Grants

Mireya Reyes (top) and Sarah Marmolejos (bottom) both recently won a $1,000 student travel award to present their research in December at the AGU Fall Meeting 2023 in San Francisco, CA. 

Mireya is using machine learning to estimate vegetation density from satellite imagery in order to track changes in vegetation cover after wildfires in Northern California. 

Sarah is working on a method to constuct a high resolution gridded vapor pressure deficit data product which can be used by researchers to study how atmospheric demand for water can affect plant water regulation. 

Congratulations, Mireya and Sarah!

Gauging the fog from the trees

In June 2023, Dr. Lauren Lowman and URECA fellowship undergraduate student Kirstin Murr traveled to Robinson Forest in Clayhole, Kentucky.  Lowman and Murr worked with University of Kentucky’s Dr. Sybil Gotsch and her lab members to install fog gauges, sap flow sensors, and datalogger boxes in the treetops.  These sensors record data on fog collected at different elevations and the movement of fluids throughout the trees.  The project is exploring follicular water uptake through the stomata in plants.  The fog gauges and molds for the sap flow sensors were all 3D printed in WFU’s Innovation Studio.

Recent publication

Dr. Lowman and collaborators recently published an article in the Nature journal Communications Earth & Environment. The work shows an increased risk of flash droughts and detriments to agriculture in a changing climate. 

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Prescribed Fire

On March 22, Lowman Lab student researchers Matthew Barnes and Nick Corak were on site for a prescribed fire conducted by the North Carolina Forest Service. Barnes and Corak were collecting temperature data inside the fire lines as well as concurrent air quality and weather conditions.  They also collected before and after readings of grass density (which was zero after the fire!). The collection of image to the left were taken by Barnes and Corak. 

Costa Rican Spring Break

Graduate student, David Carchipulla-Morales spent his Spring Break (and a bonus week) in the tropical montane cloud forests of the Monteverde Region of Costa Rica. Professor Lowman joined David as part the data collection campaign for Collaborative Research Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The project aims to investigate how a loss of the diverse and abundant epiphyte communities in the Tropical Montane Cloud Forests (TMCFs) will impact tree health, energy balance and hydrologic functions. Epiphytes are vascular and non-vascular plants that can be found in the canopies of TMCFs collecting wind-driven nutrients and creating microecosystems for the arboreal fauna. David also had to the opportunity to present in the Bosque Eterno de los Niños, the largest private reserve in Costa Rica, to talk to local guides and researchers about the relevance of epiphytes in TMCFS. 

Figure 1. David and Professor Lowman on a hike in Monte Verde learning about the epiphyte ecosystem. 

Figure 2. David, presenting his research on the development of a model describing the water and energy balance of the epiphyte system. 

Figure 3. David high above the ground among the epiphytes in the canopy. 



Undergraduate Matthew Barnes and graduate student Nick Corak presented their research tracking vegetation regrowth patterns after prescribed fire at the North Carolina Coastal Confernce. The conference, sponsored by NC Sea Grant was held November 7-8 at NC State University in Raleigh, NC. The two are collaborating on this research and recently added the longleaf pine ecosystem, native NC Coastal Plains, to their research sites. Matthew participated in the poster session showcasing his work using a machine learning algorithm to identify leaf area index (LAI) from Landsat 8 imagery. Nick presented results comparing remotely sensed and ground observations of LAI in the Lightning Talk session. 

Community engagement

Lowman Lab graduate students Paul Carchipulla-Morales and Nick Corak recently visited an AP Environmental Science class at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. The two were invited to the class to discuss the environmental dynamics problems that the Lowman Lab tackles. Carchipulla-Morales (left) speaks to the class about modeling the water cycles in Costa Rican cloud forests and the role of epiphytes (plants that grown on trees) in the water, energy, and carbon exchanges. 

Award AnnouncementS

Three undergraduate students in the Lowman Lab recently received the Wake Forest University URECA Center's Starr Travel Grant ($700 each). Matthew Barnes, Sarah Marmolejos, and Janelle Wargo will use the money to support the costs to attend the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting 2022 in Chicago, IL where they will each present a poster showcasing their research. Barnes' research is centered around applying a machine learning algorithm to track changes in leaf area index (LAI) after prescribed fire events. Wargo will showcase her work modeling stomatal conductance in montane cloud forest. This has implications for modulating the energy, carbon, and water fluxes in regions normally saturated with clouds. 

Marmolejos also received the coveted AGU Student Travel Award ($1,000) to present her work on developing a methodology to create a fine-scaled vapor pressure deficit (VPD) data set.  Sarah's work will support further studies which uses atmospheric demand for water (e.g. VPD) to assess drought and wildfire risk. Congratulations, Sarah!


Graduate student Nick Corak is showcasing his work on vegetation response to prescribed fire at the Fire in the Pines Festival, October 8 in Wilmington, NC. The festival unites people to bring positive awareness to the benefits of prescribed fire, especially in coastal North Carolina. This work is sponsored by the NC Sea Grant - NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellowship.


Lab Presents at WFU's Undergraduate Research Day

Max Hazlin ('22)

Sam Matterazzo ('22)

Julia Gass ('22)

Julia Powers ('23)


"Simulating stomatal response to cloud immersion for montane cloud forests in the Southern Appalachians" published in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology