Nov. 7, 2018
Peter Fulé’s career at Northern Arizona University has spanned three decades, moving from master’s student to doctoral student to researcher to professor while keeping much of his work focused on the interactions of fire and climate with forests.
He recently added another line to his resume, becoming the inaugural Charles O. and Mary Minor Endowed Professor in the School of Forestry.
This position, which College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Services Dean Paul Jagodzinski championed, will allow Fulé to continue with his teaching and research but provide additional resources for research, traveling to conferences and supporting students through research opportunities. James Allen, the executive director of the School of Forestry, said the CEFNS leadership wanted this professorship to support a teacher-scholar whose priorities lie in teaching while also making important scholarly contributions through research.
Six current professors applied for the position, and a committee evaluated all of the proposals and made a recommendation to Jagodzinski.
“It wasn’t an easy decision, but Pete is a truly outstanding professor and he put together a great proposal,” Allen said. “Key parts of his proposal fit very well with directions we really want to take in our school, including increased outreach to Native American communities and additional international research. Pete already has a great record of accomplishments in both of these areas, and I am highly confident that he will make effective use of the resources that come with this professorship to further these goals even more.
“In my experience, when Pete says he’s going to do something, he does it and does it well.”
This is the first endowed professorship in the School of Forestry, but Allen said these positions exist at most major forestry schools throughout the country and serve to highlight the strength of the research and faculty in those schools. The generosity of NAU’s donors, many of whom are themselves School of Forestry alumni, made the endowment possible, so Jagodzinski began the process.
Fulé’s research includes using tree rings to reconstruct past conditions, using computer models to estimate how forests will change under future climate and fire patterns and tracking the effects of ecological restoration treatments after forest fires. All of these projects help forest managers and communities make better decisions about how to conserve forests and the products and services that come from forests, like clean water, recreation and cultural values.
Although these questions have great significance in Flagstaff, they go far beyond the community as well, as Fulé has found traveling the world to do research.
“Countries all around the world face similar threats to forests. The severe wildfires in the southwestern U.S. have much in common with severe fires in the Mediterranean, Mexico, Argentina and Russia,” he said. “By working and learning together, we gain deeper knowledge and mutual benefits.”
Such collaboration is true closer to home as well. Fulé cited recent research from graduate student Tyler Mockta, who linked tree-ring analysis and forest modeling to assess the sustainability of teepee poles of Douglas fir that members of the Mescalero Apache Tribe need for the traditional coming-of-age ceremony for girls.
Fulé has worked extensively in the Southwest, Mexico and other countries, and with tribal nations including the Hualapai Tribe, Navajo Nation, Mescalero Apache Tribe and White Mountain Apache Tribe. He also has taught in Chile, France and Brazil.
“Forests are at the leading edge of scientific challenges today with respect to climate change, population growth and habitat conservation,” he said. “These issues are tough, but they make for exciting and meaningful work that motivates us.”
Who are the Minors?
Charles O. Minor was the first faculty member and founding dean of the NAU School of Forestry. He was at NAU from 1958 to 1983. Minor and his wife, Mary, made significant contributions to the school through teaching, fieldwork and behind-the-scenes activities.