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Kevin M. Potter

Research Ecologist
Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center
P.O. Box 12254
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2254
United States
Current Research

Kevin M. Potter is a Research Ecologist at the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center of the USDA Forest Service's Southern Research Station.

He is a landscape ecologist and conservation geneticist who applies the disciplines of landscape ecology, conservation biology and population genetics to assess and mitigate threats to tree species and forest communities, particularly across broad scales.

His research work includes conservation assessments of vulnerable tree species, rangewide genetic diversity studies of tree species at risk, and broad-scale studies of the ecosystem functions associated with biodiversity.

Past Research
Previous to his current position, Kevin Potter was a research professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University, serving as a joint venture cooperator with the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center of the Southern Research Station. He also served as Assessment Program Manager in the Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Research's office in Washington, DC. Before joining the faculty at NC State, he was a postdoctoral fellow with the Camcore International Tree Conservation and Domestication program at NCSU, conducting population genetic analyses on imperiled eastern North American hemlock (Tsuga) species and Central American pines. He earned a Ph.D in forestry (2006) and M.S. in natural resources (2002) from NCSU. His doctoral work focused on the population genetics and gene conservation of Fraser fir (Abies fraseri), and his master’s work analyzed the impact of land cover changes on macrobenthic invertebrate communities in North Carolina streams.
Research Interest

Kevin Potter's research leverages the disciplines of landscape ecology, conservation biology and population genetics to assess and mitigate threats to tree species and forest communities, particularly across broad scales. His research focuses on developing and applying innovative qualitative methods and models to address broad-scale, complex threats to forest health, with an emphasis on delivering tools that can enable better-informed management of forests and the tree species that constitute them.


Why This Research Is Important

Forests cover a vast area of the United States, approximately one-third of the Nation’s land area. These forests possess the capacity to provide a broad range of goods and services to current and future generations, to safeguard biological diversity, and to contribute to the resilience of ecosystems, societies, and economies. Their ecological roles include supplying large and consistent quantities of clean water, preventing soil erosion, and providing habitat for a broad diversity of plant and animal species. Their socioeconomic benefits include wood products, nontimber goods, recreational opportunities, and pleasing natural beauty. Both the ecological integrity and the continued capacity of these forests to provide ecological and economic goods and services are at risk in the face of a long list of threats, including insect and disease infestation, fragmentation and forest conversion to other land uses, catastrophic fire, invasive species, and the effects of climate change.

To maintain the ecological integrity and socioeconomic importance of forests, we first need to better quantify their function and complexity, and second to understand their vulnerability to the threats they face. Taking a large-scale perspective is critical, both for assessing the relationship among biotic and abiotic factors driving forest threats, and for making management decisions.

  • North Carolina State University, Ph.D. Forestry, Forest Ecology and Genetics, 2006
  • North Carolina State University, M.S. Natural Resources, Natural Resource Management, 2002
  • Drake University, B.A. Journalism and Mass Communication, News Reporting, 1993
Awards & Recognition
  • United States Department of Agriculture Certificate of Appreciation, 2020
    For “outstanding contributions to fulfilling the Forest Service mission of monitoring and reporting on the health of United States forests”
  • W.S. Cooper Award from the Ecological Society of America, 2019
    For an outstanding publication in the field of geobotany, physiographic ecology, plant succession, or the distribution of plants along environmental gradients, for the paper “Divergence of species responses to climate change” (Fei, S., J.M. Desprez, K.M.
  • United States Department of Agriculture Certificate of Appreciation, 2012
    For “long-term, outstanding efforts in co-editing the Annual [USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Monitoring] National Technical Report”
  • Belle Baruch Foundation Award for best poster, 31st Southern Forest Tree Improvement Conference, 2011
    For the poster “Potter, K.M., R.M. Jetton, W.S. Dvorak, V.D. Hipkins, J. Rhea, W.A. Whittier. 2011. “Range-Wide Assessment of Genetic Variation and Structure in Eastern Hemlock, an Imperiled Conifer, Using Microsatellites.”
Featured Publications
Other Publications