UM Student to Investigate Treeline as Potential Refuge for Whitebark Pine from Beetle Outbreak

February 18, 2015

Colin Maher works on his research in UM’s Montana’s Forest Ecology Laboratory.

MISSOULA – University of Montana doctoral student Colin Maher recently was awarded a $1,000 competitive grant from the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation for his research on whitebark pine tree survival at high elevation.

Maher is studying with professors Andrew Larson and Cara Nelson in UM’s College of Forestry and Conservation. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Maher’s research looks at how the “krummholz” form of whitebark pine trees – the smaller, more shrub-like version that grows at treeline elevation – might be more resistant to mountain pine beetle attacks than other forms of the tree.

“Other researchers have speculated that the krummholz form is immune to mountain pine beetle attack,” Maher said, “but this research will be the first to investigate that claim.”

Recent outbreaks of mountain pine beetles have caused drastic declines in numbers of whitebark pine throughout the western United States. Maher will investigate the role that the treeline may play in mediating the impacts of beetle outbreaks.

For more information on the research or the grant, call Maher at 831-227-4795 or email

Contact: Colin Maher, UM doctoral student, 831-227-4795,