A forest’s structure records its past and enables predictions about its future

Van R. Kane

I am a research associate at the College of Environment studying patterns of forest structure using remote sensing, especially airborne LiDAR.  My work focuses on applied studies such as measuring forest fuels, studying large areas of forests to elucidate forest processes and resulting patterns, and developing new methods to relate LiDAR data to field and satellite forests measurements.  My current work involves studying forest structure across a range of forest types including the Pacific Northwest and California  scales ranging from 25 to 95,000 hectares.


Individual tree identification,  Yosemite National Park.

Peer-reviewed Publications

Links to papers citing my work can be found at Google Scholar.

Please contact me if you would like a copy of any these papers.

Kane V.R., Lutz JA, Roberts SL, Smith DF, McGaughey RJ, Povak NA, Brooks ML. 2013.  Landscape-scale effects of Fire Severity on Mixed-conifer and Red Fir Forest Structure in Yosemite National Park. In press. Forest Ecology and Management. 287: 17–31.

Kane, V.R., Gersonde, R., Lutz, J.A., McGaughey, R.E., Bakker, J.D., and Franklin, J.F. Accepted. Patch Dynamics and the Development of Structural and Spatial Heterogeneity in Pacific Northwest Forests. Canadian Journal of Forest Research.  41: (12) 2276-2291.

Kane, V.R., Bakker, J.D., McGaughey, R.E., Lutz, J.A., Gersonde, R., and Franklin, J.F. 2010.  Examining conifer canopy structural complexity across forest ages and elevations with LiDAR data. Canadian Journal of Forest Research.  40: 774–787.

Kane, V.R., McGaughey, R.E., Bakker, J.D., Gersonde, R., Lutz, J.A., and Franklin, J.F. 2010. Comparisons between field- and LiDAR-based measures of stand structural complexityCanadian Journal of Forest Research.  40: 761–773.

Lutz, J.A., Freund, J.A., Hagmann, R.K., Kane, V.R., Larson, A.J., and Franklin, J.F. 2008. Mid-career graduate students in ecology. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment. 6(7): 394-395.

Kane, V.R., Gillespie, A.R., McGaughey, R., Lutz, J.A., Ceder, K., and Franklin, J.F. 2008. Interpretation and topographic compensation of conifer canopy self-shadowing. Remote Sensing of Environment .112(10): 3820-3832.

Gillespie, A. R., Gilson, L., Gillespie, M. A., & Kane, V. R. (2006). A framework for estimating unresolved spectral shade. In J. A. Sobrino (Ed.), Second recent advances in quantitative remote sensing (pp. 385−390). Spain: Publicacions de la Universitat de València.

Current Sponsored Projects


Map Fuel Characteristics at Mount Rainier National Park, WA, Using LiDAR and Field Data

LiDAR data offers the opportunity to map forest fuel characteristics across large forests.  This study will develop methods to correlate field fuel measures with LiDAR canopy measurements to produce a fuels map across the heterogeneous forests of Mt. Rainier National Park.


Collaborators: Regina Rochefort, Karen Kopper

Sponsor: National Park Service


Using LiDAR to Determine the Relationship between Fire History and Forest Structure at Crater Lake National Park

The goal of this collaborative project is to use LiDAR data to understand how time-since-fire (TSF) and fire severity controls patterns of forest structure development across elevation and compositional gradients.  Our specific objectives are to: (1) determine how post-fire development of forest structure varies along gradients of elevation, fire severity, and TSF by directly mapping stand development stage, canopy height, height to live crown, canopy vertical structure, basal area, and gap and patch size; (2) compare forest and patch structures created by contemporary wildland fires with pre-20th century fires; and (3) develop park-wide atlases of fire severity measurements and forest structural attributes. 


Collaborators: Calvin Farris, James Lutz

Sponsor: National Park Service


Integrated, observation-based carbon monitoring for wooded ecosystems in Washington, Oregon, and California

Predicting the fate of carbon in wooded ecosystems under future climates is a fundamental scientific and management challenge, as these systems contain large reservoirs of carbon,  provide many essential ecosystem services, and represent a potentially critical feedback in global climate change.  Yet carbon storage is highly dynamic and affected by diverse anthropogenic and natural processes that can radically change the carbon trajectory of a landscape.  This project will map changes in carbon storage in wooded ecosystems across these three states.  My contribution will calibrate the regional Landsat measurements with field and LiDAR-measurements of carbon at the watershed to regional scales.  Study website.


Collaborators: Robert Kennedy (PI), James Lutz, Janet Ohmann, Warren Cohen, Jerry Franklin,  and Scott Powell

Sponsors: U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA


Integrating and expanding a regional carbon monitoring system into the NASA Carbon Monitoring System

NASA’s The Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) is a forward-looking initiative designed to make significant contributions in characterizing, quantifying, understanding, and predicting the evolution of global carbon sources and sinks.  We will integrate the methods and results developed through the Integrated, observation-based carbon monitoring for wooded ecosystems in Washington, Oregon, and California project (see above) into NASA’s larger carbon monitoring program.  NASA CMS website.


Member, NASA Carbon Monitoring System science team.


Collaborators: Robert Kennedy (PI), Scott Powell, Warren Cohen, Jerry Franklin, Gretchen Moisen, Janet Ohmann, Rachel Riemann, Barry Wilson

Sponsor: NASA


Using LiDAR Data to Guide Ecological Restoration


Many projects seek to restore forests through silvicultural management following decades of timber harvest and fire suppression.  Common goals are to enhance structural heterogeneity, increase forest resilience, and improve habitat for sensitive species. This project will develop tools and methodologies using LiDAR data for prioritizing areas to restore at the landscape scale and then develop silvicultural prescriptions within project areas.


Collaborators: Derek Churchill and Carlos Ramirez

Sponsor: USDA Forest Service


Data Processing Methods for Large-Area LIDAR Acquisitions And Related Modeling to Predict Forest Inventory Variables.

This study will determine the best practices for using Forest Inventory and Analysis plots for inventory and biomass predictions using LiDAR data collected for the Deschutes National Forest.


Collaborators: Robert McGaughey and Steve Reutebuch

Sponsor: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station


Data Processing and Field Sample Design for Medford, OR LIDAR Acquisition and Related Modeling to Characterize Forest Structure

This project will use innovative methods to identify and map the forest structures are present across an approximately one million acre LiDAR acquisition covering federal and private lands centered on Medford, Oregon.  When combined with appropriate ground plots, descriptive statistics computed from the point cloud will be used to model and predict forest inventory variables and structure.

Collaborators: Robert McGaughey and Steve Reutebuch

Sponsor: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station


Completed Projects


Refine fire management objectives related to forest structural heterogeneity in Yosemite National Park, CA

As fires burn heterogeneously across a landscape with mixed vegetation types, variability in vegetation and fire behavior create a mosaic of burn severity patches.  These patches vary in size and shape and the amount of post-fire change in the vegetation structure. 

Collaborators: Susan Roberts, Gus Smith, James Lutz

Sponsor: National Park Service and US Geological Survey


Methods to Improve Predictions of Forest Conditions Using Airborne LiDAR Data

The project will involve a number of tasks in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service Northwest Research Station to develop and improve methods to measure and predict forest conditions using airborne LiDAR data.

Collaborator: Robert McGaughey

Sponsor: USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station


Gap and Patch Structure of Pacific Northwest Forests

The development of gaps and regrowth patches is a key process to developing structures characteristic of old-growth forests.  This work quantifies gap and patch structure across a range of forest ages, relates the observed patterns to theories of forest development, and examines whether the patterns observed can be used to refine remote sensing methods to classify forests.

Collaborators: Rolf Gersonde, James Lutz

Sponsor: NASA (completion of work begun under NASA Graduate Fellowship)




Ph.D., Ecosystem Analysis, University of Washington, 2010

B.A. General Arts and Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 1977


My graduate research was funded through a NASA graduate fellowship (Grant NNX07AN75H)  and used LiDAR measurements of forest canopy structure to calibrate and evaluate ASTER and Landsat remote sensing of forest structure. I also used LiDAR to classify forests at multiple scales based on the structural complexity of their canopies. I have been a contractor for the City of Seattle and The Nature Conservancy to map forest structure in two large reserves using LiDAR data. 

Kane, V.R. 2010. Patterns of Forest Structural Complexity Studied with Airborne LiDAR Data.  PhD. Dissertation. University of Washington, College of Forest Resources.  Seattle, Washington, USA. 219 p.


Kane, V.R. and Lutz, J.A. 2012. Combining Landsat and LiDAR Remote Sensing Data to refine fire management objectives for forest structure heterogeneity in Yosemite National Park.  Final Report.  Report to National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey.

Kane, V.R. 2008. Ellworth Creek LiDAR analysis final report. Report to The Nature Conservancy of Washington State.

Kane, V.R. 2008. Canopy structure at Ellsworth Creek study sites and experimental basins. Report to The Nature Conservancy of Washington State.

Kane, V.R. 2008. Methods used to produce LiDAR metrics of Ellsworth Creek forest canopies. Report to the City of Seattle Public Utilities Division.

Kane, V.R. 2008. Methods used to produce LiDAR metrics of Cedar River Watershed forest canopies. Report to The Nature Conservancy of Washington State.


Landscape scale changes to forest structure with different fire severities in Yosemite National Park.  5th International Fire Ecology & Management Congress. Portland, Oregon.  Kane, V.R. and Lutz, J.A. (oral presentation)

Using LiDAR Data to Model Changes in Forest Structure from Mixed Severity Fires. 2012. Silvilaser. Vancouver, British Columbia. Kane, V.R., Lutz, J.A., North, M. (oral presentation)

Fusion of Landsat and Airborne LiDAR Data to Study Landscape‐scale effects of Fire Severity in Yosemite National Park. 2012. ForestSat. Corvallis, Oregon.  Kane, V.R. and Lutz, J.A. (oral presentation) 

Mapping change in live and dead forest biomass with Landsat time-series, remeasured plots, and nearest-neighbor imputation.   2012. ForestSat. Corvallis, Oregon.  Ohmann,J., Gregory, M., Roberts, H., Kennedy, R.,Yang, Z, Braaten, J., Powell, S., Cohen, W., Kane, V., Lutz, J. (oral presentation) 

Comparison of biomass allometric approaches for regional scale carbon mapping. 2012. ForestSat. Corvallis, Oregon.   Powell, S., Kennedy, R., Ohmann, J., Cohen, W., Gregory, M., Roberts, H., Kane, V., and Lutz, J.A. (oral presentation) 

Restoring natural gap variability: Relationships between forest type, fire severity, forest structure, and gap patterns in Yosemite National Park. 2012 97th Annual Meeting Ecological Society of America.  Portland, Oregon.  Kane, V.R. and Lutz, J.A. (oral presentation) 

Using LiDAR to monitor effects of forest restoration: An example from The Nature Conservancy’s Ellsworth Creek Project.  2011. 8th North American Forest Ecology Workshop. Roanoke, Virginia. Davis, L.R., and Kane, V.R. (oral presentation)

Using LIDAR for MULTI-Scaled assessments of forest structure. 2009. 94th ESA Annual Meeting.  Kane, V.R., McGaughey, R.E., Gersonde, R., Lutz, J.A., Bakker, J.D., and Franklin, J.F. (oral presentation).

Calibrating Landsat/ASTER with LiDAR for Forest Studies. 2009 NASA Biodiversity and Ecological Forecasting Team Meeting.  Kane, V.R. (oral presentation)

Characterizing Forest Structural Complexity at Multiple Scales, Northwest Scientific Association 2009 Annual Conference.  Kane, V.R., McGaughey, R.E., Gersonde, R., Lutz, J.A., Bakker, J.D., and Franklin, J.F. (oral presentation).

Using LiDAR metrics to characterize forests structural complexity at multiple scales. 2007 American Geophysical Union Conference. Kane, V.R., McGaughey, R.E., Gersonde, R., and Franklin, J.F. (oral presentation).

Spectral unmixing of remotely sensed forest images using an adaptive topographic shade correction algorithm. 2006 American Geophysical Union Conference.  Kane, V.R., Gillespie, A.R., Ceder, K, and Lutz, J. (poster)

Mapping the geography of conservation solutions. 2006 Society for Conservation Biology Annual Meeting. Kane, V.R. and Hoekstra, J. (oral presentation).

Peer Reviewer for Landscape Ecology, Remote Sensing of Environment, Environmental Management, International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, New Zealand Journal of Forest Science, Forest Systems, and Sensors


Neotropical forest examined with LiDAR data, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Barro Colorado Island, Panama

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

University of Washington

Box 352100

Seattle, WA 98195-2100


Bloedel 386

(Campus map)


E-mail: vkane@uw.edu

Telephone: 206-543-4713