R&D announces three new Senior Scientists

WASHINGTON, DC—Three Forest Service scientists recently achieved the title of “Senior Scientist” in acknowledgement of their world-class research and distinguished reputations as authorities in their respective fields. A Senior Scientist is comparable in status to a position in the Senior Executive Service. USDA caps the number of Senior Scientist positions across all of the department’s agencies at 100.

Deborah “Jean” Lodge

is a botanist with the Northern Research Station’s Biological and Environmental Influences on Forest Health and Productivity staff. Currently stationed at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry in Puerto Rico, she was promoted to Senior Scientist status for her work in understanding and describing beneficial and harmful types of forest fungi. She has described more than 100 new species of fungi in peer-reviewed journals and also led an international team of 34 authors that revised the scientific description of a worldwide family of fungi.

Lodge, who is planning to retire soon, said she had worked over the years with a handful of Senior Scientists whom she liked and greatly respected. “It feels nice to get the recognition and be one of them,” she said. She is the second woman in the Forest Service to receive the recognition, and the only scientist in the agency to ever be promoted to the rank for purely scientific work; most recipients take on administrative duties at some point. “It sends a positive message to others that they can devote their careers to doing science and still achieve this level of recognition,” she said.

Alan Watson

is a research social scientist with the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute at Rocky Mountain Research Station. He is widely recognized nationally and internationally for his leadership in developing social science knowledge through improved methodologies and teamwork to address the problems associated with the protection of wilderness lands and water. He initiated the only international scientific journal focused on wilderness. He has been the science coordinator for the corresponding World Wilderness Congresses in India, Spain, South Africa, Alaska and Mexico, and will organize the upcoming 2019 congress in China. He has also found opportunities to mentor students and other scholars. “There haven’t been Senior Scientists previously in my field, so achieving this position is really an honor,” Watson said. “It’s great that the Forest Service wants to recognize the importance of protected area science.”

Jeff Prestemon, a research forester and project leader at Southern Research Station, says he was shocked when his supervisor told him he’d been promoted to a Senior Scientist. He viewed the Senior Scientists he has known as giants in their field. “Knowing I have achieved such a rating has forced me to reevaluate my own impacts,” Prestemon said. “I am still trying to wrap my mind around it.”

His selection reflects his leadership role in the Working Party on Forest Statistics, Economics and Management, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe-Food and Agricultural Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He also has contributed to the Forest Service’s Resources Planning Act Assessments as the forest products markets and trade specialist. His research in the economics of forest-based natural disturbances and the effects of policies designed to combat trade in illegal wood products is also noteworthy.

Forest Service Research and Development Deputy Chief Carlos Rodriguez-Franco said that Lodge, Watson and Prestemon embody the productivity, dedication and professionalism of Forest Service scientists, especially those of Senior Scientists caliber. “I am happy and extremely proud of all three of them and honored to have them in the R&D community,” he said.