Video shows how Phil Townsend tracks tiny beetles from outer space

Phil Townsend spies on beetles smaller than a match head from 760 miles away. The CALS forest ecologist is using satellite remote sensing technology to track the spread of infestations of bark beetles, such as the mountain pine beetle, which is infesting millions of acres of lodgepole pine across the Rocky Mountains from Colorado to British Columbia. To see how he goes about it, go to the CALS News website to see this NASA-produced video.

Townsend is one of several UW-Madison researchers collaborating on a variety of studies related to beetles attacking conifers in western states. Others include CALS entomologist Ken Raffa, one of the world’s top experts on bark beetles; microbiologist Cameron Currie, who is interested in how the bark beetles employ fungus and bacteria as they attack the trees; and botany professor Monica Turner, a landscape ecologist who is interested in the relationship between beetle infestations and wildfires.