Stella Cousins

CNI Fellow - Class of 2015

Graduate Student, Ecology (Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management)
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources/UC Berkeley


Characterizing Carbon in California Forests: Adapting Greenhouse Gas Inventories to Climatic Stress and Rising Mortality


My research examines how standing dead trees impact the pools and fluxes of carbon in California mixed conifer forests. The work is based primarily on an extensive dimensional analysis of standing dead trees, describing their patterns of carbon density through detailed measurement of wood density and carbon content. The research will be used to improve the accuracy and completeness of forest carbon accounting and greenhouse gas budgets for California’s changing forests.


  • Quantify changing properties of standing dead trees in California mixed conifer forests
  • Investigate the effects of tree characteristics on decay patterns.
  • Incorporate standing dead tree properties into new estimates of California’s greenhouse gas storage and emissions.

Expected outcomes:

  • We will complete the first measurements of standing decay patterns and carbon density in California's most common tree species.
  • Considering decay in dead trees will decrease estimates of the forest carbon stored in mixed conifer forests.
  • Our evidence of changing properties in standing dead trees will encourage adoption of adjustments for decay in state and regional greenhouse gas inventories.

Future Plans

Specifically, I plan to complete this research project, eventually publishing the study and including it in my doctoral dissertation. More generally, I will use this fellowship project to continue building my capacity for applied research and understanding of California’s dynamic ecosystems.


John Battles