Forests, Beetles, and the Cycles of Life

Topics: Water Resources, Forests, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Ecosystems & Biodiversity

Vast stands of coniferous forest are an essential part of the ecology, economy, and character of western North America. Recent dramatic changes, such as forest mortality from insect outbreaks and increased fire activity, are occurring across huge areas of western forests. Forest, Beetles, and the Cycles of Life explores the past, present and future of our forests by traveling through space and time to understand the connections between local forest ecosystems, global forest biomes, and our cosmic neighborhood.  It examines how pine beetles have changed Colorado’s landscapes, how these infestations arose, and their impacts on forests of western North America.

This event originally took place at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s Gates Planetarium (Denver, CO) on June 4, 2013.

Program Kit


Storyboard & Script

Installer Download

Uniview Installer Files

Training Video

here video...

Data Sources

Colorado’s Forests and the Pine Beetle Epidemic

Professor Jeff Mitton and researchers from the University of Colorado explain the connection between the unprecedented mountain pine beetles epidemic and climate change in Colorado.

Mountain Pine Beetle Documentary

Student documentary about the Mountain Pine Beetle

here video...

The Black Hills and the Mountain Pine Beetle

This 30-minute television documentary from South Dakota Public Broadcasting looks at the various impacts of a significant, multi-year Mountain Pine Beetle infestation in the Black Hills.

The Pine Beetle Project

The Pine Beetle Project was funded by the Department of Energy to study how the recent deaths of pine trees in the mountains of the Western US are likely to affect regional and global carbon budgets. An unprecedented outbreak of mountain pine beetle populations has caused widespread mortality, especially in lodgepole pine forests. Their studies have shown that the forests will shift from being a carbon sink to being a carbon source.

Mountain Pine Beetle and Forest Carbon in British Columbia

Mountain pine beetle attacks have decimated BCs pine forests, seriously damaging their ability to store carbon and protect against global warming. An effective response to the beetle attacks will involve much more than just clearcutting dead trees.

The Beetles are Coming: Pine Beetle Destroys British Columbia Forests

The Beetles are Coming takes the viewer on a rich, up close and personal journey into the world of the Mountain Pine Beetle, and uncovers the science behind this ecological disaster. The story of this remarkable little creature the size of a grain of rice that will destroy the pine forests of North America epitomizes the cause and effect of how climate change can upset the balance of nature with unpredictable, unimaginable, devastating results. Forest officials scrambled to contain the damage. Once the lodgepole pines turned red they burned with a ferocious intensity. That combined with hot summers, created the ideal conditions for raging out-of-control forest fires. Industry began logging the infected trees in attempt to clear the forest and capitalize on the economic value of the timber. At considerable expense, forestry officials in B.C. and Alberta began marking and burning infested trees to control the spread but found it impossible to keep up.




  • Bob Raynolds (DMNS)
  • Ka Chun Yu (DMNS)
  • Healy Hamilton (NatureServe)


  • Dr. Bob Raynolds (DMNS)
  • Dr. Ka Chun Yu (DMNS)
  • Dr. Healy Hamilton (NatureServe)

Science Advisors

  • Healy Hamilton (NatureServe)
  • Bob Raynolds (DMNS)
  • Ka Chun Yu (DMNS)

GIS & Visualizations

  • Cynthia Powell
  • Ka Chun Yu
  • Lydia Hooper
  • Ned Gardiner
  • Healy Hamilton

Production Coordination

  • Kathi Koontz

Technical Support

  • Ka Chun Yu
  • Greg Mancari


  • Colorado School of Mines: Reed Maxwell and team
  • Colorado State Climatologist: Nolan Doeskin, Noah Newman
  • Colorado State Forest Service, Granby District: Ron Cousineau
  • Colorado State University: Dr. Jason Sibold
  • Colorado State University Rocky Mountain Research Station: Ron Hubbard
  • Databasin: Tosha Comendant and Tara Starr Marvin
  • National Park Service, Intermountain Regional Office: David Vana-Miller
  • Natureserve: Regan Smyth, Ricky White, and Lori Scott
  • Rocky Mountain National Park: Ron Thomas, Doug Watry, and Jeff Connor
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Kawuneech Visitors Center: Andrew Redman, Sharon Teal
  • USFS, Lakewood, Region 2: Brian Howell
  • USFS Sulphur Ranger District: Craig Magwire
  • University of Colorado, Boulder: Teresa Chapman
  • University of Idaho: Arjan Meddens, Jeff Hicke
  • World Resources Institute: Susan Minnemeyer, Robin Kraft, and James Anderson