Forest Biomass Development Coordinator Named

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Raymond Miller has been named MAES forest biomass development coordinator. (view larger image)

With 19.3 million acres of forestland, Michigan is primed to be a national leader in producing renewable fuels from cellulose—trees, stems and stalks that aren’t food products.

In recognition of the growing importance of trees as raw materials for bioproducts, Raymond Miller, who oversees forestry research at Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) properties in the Upper Peninsula and serves as director of the U.P. Tree Improvement Center, added MAES forest biomass development coordinator to his duties Sept. 1.

In this new role, Miller will coordinate many of the forest-based biofuel relationships between Michigan State University and other entities, including Michigan Technological University, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Swedish Forest Agency. He also will work with Michigan State University Extension to facilitate education and outreach on the bioeconomy.

“I’m now the university’s point person for forest biomass production,” Miller said. “Besides working with faculty members in the Forestry Department that are already studying cellulosic biomass, I’ll be learning more about what’s going on outside forestry so I can connect faculty members from across departments.”

In 2007, MSU announced a biofuel partnership with Michigan Tech to create new collaborative research, outreach and economic development programs centered on fuels and energy made from forest biomass. The programs are overseen by the eight-member Renewable Fuels Working Group, made up of four scientists from each university. Miller and David Shonnard, Michigan Tech professor of chemical engineering, are co-chairpersons of the group.

With his colleagues on the Renewable Fuels Working Group, Miller hosted a biofuels summit in Escanaba in February attended by 50 representatives of businesses from all aspects of the forest-based bioeconomy and state and local government agencies. The goal of the summit was to identify key questions the universities should address in three priority areas: feedstock production, feedstock supply chains, and feedstock conversion systems and integration. The summit also furthered the MSU-Sweden relationship by featuring presentations from four Swedish bioenergy researchers, who explained Sweden’s transition to renewable fuels. Sweden has 69 million acres of forestland and an enormous forest products industry, so wood is the raw material of choice for Sweden’s bioeconomy. Miller and other researchers believe that Michigan can use Sweden as a model when developing the state’s forest-based bioeconomy.

“I’m very pleased that Ray has added this new role to his responsibilities,” said Steve Pueppke, MAES director, who also heads the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies. “This formalizes a lot of the work he has been doing and will solidify our relationships with businesses and state agencies. Our research and development emphasis is on making cellulosic biofuels, and it makes sense for Ray to help lead this effort.”

Miller’s research focuses on forest establishment and management systems and how various systems affect growth and yield. He came to MSU as a research assistant in 1978 and served as associate director of the Michigan Cooperative Tree Improvement Program from 1981 to 1988, after which he was named manager of the U.P. Tree Improvement Center in Escanaba. The U.P. Tree Improvement Center is one of 14 MAES field research stations located around the state.

Miller received his bachelor’s degree in forest resource management in 1975 and his master’s degree in silvics in 1978 from the State University of New York, Syracuse. He received his doctorate in forestry from MSU in 1984.

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