Paul Alaback

Photo of Alaback, Paul

Paul Alaback

Professor Emeritus of Forest Ecology

Office Hours:

By appointment. Please send email.

Personal Summary

While the main focus of my research has always been aimed at better understanding ecological relationships in forests and grasslands, I have found that the integration of knowledge from other disciplines is often a vital part of understanding the broad picture which is requisite to doing meaningful conservation work. Early in my career I was able to develop research information that was key to changing conservation practices and policies on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.  Learning how to translate scientific information and make it useful for practitioners of conservation and policy makers has been both stimulating, challenging, and personally rewarding. This is why I am especially supportive of the broad interdisciplinary nature of the resource conservation program here, as it helps stimulate this synthesis, both for faculty and students, and trains students not only in the science of conservation but also in how to actually do conservation.  I taught many field - oriented courses through the Wilderness Institute, which provides a unique opportunity for students to learn in what I think is the most stimulating possible way -- in the diverse array of landscapes and ecosystems across the Northern Rockies. Learning and teaching natural history has always been my passion.   See: I retired from regular teaching in 2009, and my work is now focused on research,

consulting, public education, and various aspects of conservation. I am now quite involved in work relating to

promote sustainability and conservation of temperate rainforests in Alaska, and promoting citizen science

with the natural history guide and a nation-wide phenology monitoring program (Project Budburst and National

Phenology Network)


Ph.D. Forest Science (forest ecology) September 1980. Thesis topic: understory biomass successional dynamics in the Sitka spruce-western hemlock forests of southeastern Alaska. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.

B.S. Botany, B.S. Forest Science. University of Washington, Seattle, WA 1976.

International Studies Program. Central Washington State College, Ellensburg, WA. and University of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. 1974.

Professional societies
--American Association for the Advancement of Science since 1983
--Ecological Society of America since 1995
--Montana Native Plant Society since 1995


Research Interests

My research centers on structure and function of forests and their relation to biological diversity across a range of scales. I am specifically interested in old growth ecology, biogeographic and land-use effects on plant diversity, global distribution and ecology of temperate rainforests, and understory vegetation ecology. I am also interested in comparing parallel ecosystems in North and South America to address the role of historic and societal influences on contemporary ecological processes. Current projects include ecological effects of salvage logging, effects of thinning on understory plants, ecology of exotic species, demography of long-lived forest understory plants, and developing better resources for learning natural history.


Lead Scientist, Project Budburst  (

Board of Directors, Northwest Connections

Consultant for Nature Conservancy-Alaska

Science Advisor, Aububon Society -Alaska

International Experience

My international work has been key to being able to better understand ecology and to place the work I have been involved with in a larger context. My international work has mostly focused on understanding the ecology of temperate rainforests and associated xeric forests in the Patagonia region of South America. I have also studied temperate rainforests in Canada and Europe.  I teach a course on the ecology of Patagonia, and am working on a book on the natural history of plants in Patagonia


Photography, solar greenhouses, gardening, environmental education, observational astronomy,  nature writing, conservation, music

Selected Publications

Alaback,P., G. Nowacki and S. Saunders. In Press.  Disturbance Ecology of the Temperate Rainforests of Southeast Alaska and Adjacent British Columbia.  In: J.W. Schoen and G. Orians, eds.  Ecology & Conservation of North Temperate Rainforests. University of Washington Press, Seattle.


Bisbing, S.M., P.B.  Alaback and T. Deluca. 2010.  Carbon storage in old-growth and second growth fire-dependent western larch (Larix occidentalis Nutt.) forests of the inland Northwest, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 259:1041-1049.


Mouw, Jason E.B., Stanford, Jack A.. and Paul B. Alaback. 2009. Influences of flooding and hyporheic exchange on floodplain plant richness and productivity.  River Research and Applications 25:929-945.



Anibal Pauchard and Paul Alaback 2006. Edge type defines alien plant species invasions along Pinus contorta  burned, highway and clearcut forest edges.  Forest Ecology and Management 223:327-335.


Alaback, P.B. 2005. Was Fernow wrong? Reflections on the search for a sustainable timber industry in Southeast Alaska during the past century. In: Tom Litwin and Lawrence Hott, eds.  The Alaska-Harriman Retraced Expedition 2001, a companion volume to the PBS series. Rutgers University Press.


R. Lawford, P. Alaback, and E.R. Fuentes (eds.).  1995. High-latitude rain forests and associated ecosystems of the west coast of the Americas: Climate, hydrology, ecology and conservation.  Springer-Verlag. 409 pp