UM researchers earn $1.4 million grant to study biomass

By University of Montana | May 17, 2016

University of Montana forestry Professor Beth Dodson is the project director of a grant recently funded for $1.4 million from the USDA and U.S. Department of Energy's Biomass Research and Development Initiative.

Researchers will use the grant to identify and overcome the barriers to using biomass from fuels-reduction and forest-restoration treatments. Dodson and her team will look at the logistics, economics and sustainability of using an otherwise disposed resource as fuel for bioenergy operations.

"This research will substantially improve our ability to sustainably use forest-based feedstocks to offset fossil fuels for the benefit of society and the forest resource," Dodson said. "We will do this by improving the treatment design, harvest and handling of forest biomass to maximize environmental sustainability and human health while minimizing costs."

Dodson will lead the operations team for the grant. John Goodburn, a UM forestry professor, will co-lead the silviculture team along with Michael Battaglia from the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. Ching-Hsun Huang, a forest economist from Northern Arizona University, will colead the economics team along with Nathaniel Anderson from the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.

"Research of this type demonstrates our forward-thinking faculty and their appreciation of the role forest resources, including woody biomass, play in meeting our increasing energy and product needs," said UM College of Forestry and Conservation Interim Dean Wayne Freimund.

The agencies funded a total of $10 million to invest in green energy research, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and supported by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.