Kate Kitchens, BSc
Disturbance synergies of bark beetles and wildfire: investigating post-fire insect outbreak potential in dry interior forests of western North America
Kate works collaboratively with Dr. Allan Carroll in the Forest Insect Disturbance Ecology Lab (FIDEL) and Dr. Lori Daniels in the Tree Ring Lab (TRL). Her PhD research focuses on the spatial and temporal patterns of Douglas-fir beetle (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae) outbreaks after wildfire events in dry interior forests. She is particularly interested in understanding how these types of forest disturbances interact, and how these regimes are transforming as climate change continues to stress northern coniferous forests.
Disturbance Synergies in a Changing Climate
Forest disturbance regimes around the world are undergoing a period of rapid change. Due to the combined influences of climate change and forest management practices, the size and severity of both wildfires and insect outbreaks have increased. In dry interior forests, both wildfires and insects have historically interacted to create diverse and resilient landscapes, but there is increasing concern that changes in one or more disturbance regimes could create novel, and potentially harmful disturbance synergies, pushing these forests past key ecological tipping points. Kate's research focuses on the role of compounding disturbances in dry interior forests, specifically the potential for Douglas-fir beetle to outbreak after wildfires in western North America. Specifically, Kate is researching how coniferous woodboring species (Cerambycidae, Buprestidae) infest dead and defensively compromised tree species in post-fire forests. She is also modelling the potential for Douglas-fir beetle to outbreak immediately after wildfires at the tree and stand level, and how this outbreak potential is affected by wildfire severity, the presence of other subcortical insects, and stand characteristics. She will also investigate these relationships at the landscape scale, determining the broader temporal and spatial pressures that affect bark beetle outbreaks after wildfires. View more details on her research project through the UBC FIDEL website here.
Other Activities at UBC
Kate is passionate about teaching, and has had the privilege of being a teaching assistant and instructor for numerous courses in her time at UBC, including FRST 351: Interior Field School, FRST 320: Abiotic Disturbance: Fire and Climate, CONS 451: Integrated Field School, BIOL 412: Phytogeography and FRST 544: Technical Communications.
Kate has also worked with Metro Vancouver as a UBC Sustainability Scholar, assessing management strategies for various insects and pathogens in the Metro Vancouver watersheds. She holds a BSc (Honours) in Earth and Environmental Sciences from the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
Recent Publications & Reports:
Kitchens, K.A., Peng, L., Daniels, L.D. and Carroll, A.L. (2022) Patterns of infestation by subcortical insects (Coleoptera: Buprestidae, Cerambycidae) after widespread wildfires in mature Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests. Forest Ecology and Management, 513 (1): 120203. doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2022.120203. Open Access Link
K.J. Heeter, G.L. Harley, J.T. Maxwell, R.J. Wilson, J.T. Abatzoglou, S.A. Rayback, M. L. Rochner, K.A. Kitchens (2021) Summer temperature variability since 1730 CE across the low-to-mid latitudes of western North America from a tree ring blue intensity network, Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 267: 107064, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2021.107064.
Potential effects of climate change on forest health in Metro Vancouver’s water supply area: An investigation of biotic disturbances and management strategies
K.A. Kitchens and D. Dunkley, MRM P. Geo (2019) Link here