Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Developing an experimental forest network

GEORGIA — In February, Southern Research Station scientists and staff participated in the second round of SRS experimental forest tours.

Photo: Group of people in hard hats stand in forest along riverbank. One person is speaking to the group.
Tour participants learn about research being conducted on the Hitchiti Experimental Forest, established in 1946 in the Piedmont region of Ga. Forest Service photo by Marty Spetich.

Three teams visited 11 eastern experimental forests over five days. Experimental forests are a station-level asset, and they are available to all SRS scientists and partners to answer important science questions and meet resource manager needs.

Station researchers Stephanie LaseterJim Vose and Jim Guldin are promoting the experimental forests and their potential. Creating an experimental forest network that facilitates interactions among scientists, professional and technical support, and partners is a critical first step.

Tour objectives were to increase understanding of the value of the station’s experimental forests, and to explore new ways to collaborate on important science questions within and across experimental forests.

Most tour participants visited forests they had never seen before and interacted with new colleagues with different experiences and expertise. Tour participants learned firsthand about the research being conducted by SRS scientists and partners.

One team visited Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory and the Blue ValleyScull Shoals and Hitchiti experimental forests. A second team visited the Bent CreekCalhoun and Santee experimental forests, as well as the Savannah River Site. The third team spent time at the HarrisonEscambiaChipola and Olustee experimental forests.

On the final day, the three teams and hosts met together in Atlanta, Georgia, to share experiences and debrief with station director Rob Doudrick. Teams and hosts built on the outcomes from the 2017 tours and agreed that:

  • A network structure that engages all SRS scientists in research opportunities on experimental forests will increase the value of those forests. Broader scale questions can be addressed across multiple experimental forests.
  • Experimental forests are a unique resource and core strength for SRS. They offer benefits to the entire research establishment in the U.S. and beyond.
  • Despite declining budgets, the people currently working on SRS experimental forests are enthusiastic, dedicated and engaged.
  • Successful projects must involve collaboration with partners outside of the SRS. They must also address the needs of partners such as the Forest Service Southern Region and the southern group of state foresters.

Planning is underway for an experimental forest workshop. The workshop will be held May 1–3 in Little Rock, Arkansas. It will have multiple outcomes, including developing the framework to advance science across the emerging experimental forest network. For more information about the network or workshop email Stephanie Laseter. You can also learn more by exploring a story map about SRS experimental forests.