summer tanager in pine tree

Spotlight on Research


Climate-Smart Grown in SC has an amazing team of researchers studying how climate-smart practices affect the environment. Whether it's measuring greenhouse gases, sampling pollinators, or surveying for birds, Grown in SC is collecting vital data while its participants implement climate-smart practices.

Climate-Smart Arthropod Research

bee on flower

Small but Mighty

Although our planet contains an amazing diversity of life, the survival of earth’s complex ecosystems rests upon the tiniest of backs. Arthropods - a group of animals including insects, crustaceans, and spiders - make up over 85% of all known animal species. Incredibly, their combined biomass is estimated to equal that of humanity’s plus all its livestock. Arthropods pollinate plants, recycle nutrients, and are food for other animals. Without arthropods, ecosystems and food supply chains across the globe would collapse.

wasp on flower close-up

Forest Friends and Foes

The Southeast is known as the “timber basket” of the United States, producing more forest products than any other region. Its pine forests are also critical for storing carbon, reducing surface temperatures, and providing habitat for numerous organisms. Many types of arthropods call these forests home. Some arthropods are considered pests, damaging trees through defoliation and wood boring. Others are considered beneficial, preying on pest species and providing other ecosystem services.

pine forest

A Changing World

Climate change is impacting these arthropod populations, with many beneficial species experiencing declines and some pest species becoming more widespread. Increases in temperatures and changes in rainfall can also stress trees, making them more susceptible to damage from pests. Different forest management strategies can impact the balance of these beneficial and pest species, while influencing the overall health and productivity of stands.

student researcher in a forest

Climate-Smart in Action

Arati Budhathoki is a doctoral student in Clemson’s Forestry and Environmental Conservation department. Studying under Dr. Jess Hartshorn, Arati is assessing the relative impacts of climate-smart forestry practices on beneficial and pest arthropods in forest systems. Arati will be comparing the effects of climate-smart forestry practices to current best management practices (BMP) to see how arthropods respond to these different management scenarios.

three dishes collecting pollinators

Collecting with Color

Arati uses colored bowls filled with soapy water to attract, trap, and preserve pollinators. Pollinators are attracted to different colors depending upon the type of flowers they prefer, so the traps are designed to catch a wide range of insects. These traps will be placed in select forests of Climate-Smart Grown in SC landowners, with five traps in each stand. They are left to attract insects for 12 concurrent days each month before Arati collects the samples and brings them back to Clemson labs for identification.

student researcher in forest collecting pollinators

A Shared Future

Arati is currently testing this project’s collection methodology in Clemson’s Experimental Forest but will soon be working directly with Climate-Smart Grown in SC participants. These landowners are giving us an incredible opportunity to learn how climate-smart forestry practices not only impact forestry sustainability and productivity, but also how they affect arthropod populations. Our future is intertwined with these tiny yet vitally important creatures, so this study and studies like it will help determine the best way to secure that future.

Climate-Smart Avian Research

yellow-throated warbler in a pine

Canaries in a Coalmine

Birds are some of the most charismatic and diverse organisms on earth. Across nearly every kind of habitat, bird populations are declining and reflect challenges and threats facing all living things. Because birds are easily observable and sensitive to changes in their habitats, they make an excellent indicator species – an organism that helps us measure environmental conditions.

red-cockaded woodpecker in a pine

State of Diversity

Over 127 species of landbirds nest in South Carolina during the spring and summer months. This includes important game species like the Northern bobwhite, Woodcock, and Wild turkey, as well as threatened and vulnerable species like the Red-cockaded woodpecker and Brown-headed nuthatch. Many of these birds call South Carolina’s pine forests home.

meadowlark singing

Pinelands are Fine Lands

Healthy pine forests do far more than produce valuable timber. These systems provide a host of ecosystem services including reducing surface temperatures, slowing storm runoff, lessening flood risks, and storing carbon. Pinelands also support hundreds of animal and plant species, many of which are only found in these ecosystems. Exploring how climate-smart forestry practices impact these organisms will help us to create a sustainable, profitable industry that also supports the diversity of life on earth.

Researcher in pine forest using binoculars

Getting Climate-Smart

Bryce DelaCourt is a doctoral student in Clemson’s Wildlife and Fisheries Biology Program. Studying under Dr. Robert Baldwin, Bryce is researching how climate-smart pine management practices affect South Carolina’s bird species. Bryce will be spending his summer months surveying the forests of Climate-Smart Grown in SC participants to evaluate how birds are impacted by practices like forest thinning and the creation of patch habitats. Bryce will regularly visit Climate-Smart sites to conduct timed point counts where he looks and listens for birds, identifying the numbers and species present within a set area. Bryce is currently testing research methods in Clemson’s Experimental Forest.

Researcher conducting a point count in a pine forest

A Lasting Impact

In addition to studying bird diversity and habitat associations, Bryce is also working with South Carolina foresters to promote the adoption of climate-smart practices. Bryce and the Climate-Smart Grown in SC team hope that getting more people to adopt sustainable, climate-smart forestry practices will not only support a sustainable forestry industry, but also support a variety of life within our forestland. Bryce believes that this research and other Climate-Smart Grown in SC research projects, “will help show foresters not only with words, but with scientific data, that climate-smart practices are good for both a sustainable business and for the environment.”