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Laura S. Kenefic

Laura S. Kenefic
Research Forester, Team Leader
Northern Forest Science and Applications
54 Government Road
Bradley, ME 04411
United States
Current Research
  • Ecology and Silviculture of Mixed-Species Stands - Recent and ongoing projects include short- and long-term dynamics of multi-aged stands (with a focus on selection, diameter-limit, and other forms of partial cutting), rehabilitation of degraded stands, regeneration substrates and dynamics, stand and sub-stand structure, and relationships between forest management and understory vegetation. Many of these projects are in collaboration with University of Maine faculty and graduate students. Much of my work is on the Penobscot Experimental Forest in Maine, but I also conduct research on the Dukes Experimental Forest in Michigan and in cooperation with a number of large landowners and Northern Forest managers. My research addresses the northern conifer (hemlock - spruce - fir) and northern hardwood (beech - birch - maple) forest types, with an emphasis on mixedwood stands (i.e., hardwood - softwood mixtures). Mixedwoods have greater functional diversity than stands of softwoods or hardwoods alone and have been found to confer advantages such as market flexibility, adaptability and compatibility with future climate, improved biodiversity, and resistance to insect pests and diseases. 
  • Sustainability - I am a principal investigator in a cross-border U.S. - Canada study of northern white-cedar ecology and silviculture, in collaboration with Laval University (Quebec), the Canadian Forest Service, and the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Parks, and Wildlife. My work with northern white-cedar focus on regeneration, tree and stand growth, and response to silviculture. I also have been working with University of Maine and Station colleagues on studies of soil-site-growth relationships in a number of different stand types, the long-term effects of harvesting on site productivity, the role of site in determining sub-stand-level variation in silvicultural outcomes, and residual stand and regeneration implications of mechanized harvesting.
  • Experimental Forest Research - My research portfolio includes a number of long-term (foundational) studies on experimental forests. These studies, which originated as many as 90+ years ago, provide unusually robust findings about management outcomes. In addition to using historical work to answer contemporary forest management questions (e.g., effect of silviculture on carbon storage), I am working with the Forest Service's Research Data Archive to make data from long-term studies of forest ecology and management publicly available. 
  • Diversity and Inclusion Science - The U.S. Forest Service is committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce. Yet women and people from traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic groups continue to be in the minority in forestry professions. In order to better understand the role of the Forest Service in supporting and promoting diversity, I have been working with colleagues within our organization and at partner institutions to better understand not only trends in workforce demographics, but the organizational norms and processes that contribute to those outcomes. Our work takes a science-based, data-driven approach to cultural transformation, in order to inform diversification efforts within our organization and the profession as a whole.
Research Interest

In addition to ongoing studies, I would like to expand my research in the areas of rehabilitation of degraded stands; ecology and silviculture of northern white-cedar, and networking and synthesis of long-term silvicultural experiments such as those on experimental forests.

Why This Research Is Important

The forests of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada are structurally and compositionally complex, and recent trends in forest management have been toward silvicultural systems that maintain or increase complexity of structure and species. However, the dynamics of mixed-species and multi-aged stands are incompletely understood, and information about ecosystem response to management in both the short- and long-term is needed. I am using current studies, as well as archived data and intact plots from early Forest Service research, to address problems of contemporary forest management. Additionally, focus on potentially at-risk components of complex ecosystems and forests degraded by past mismanagement is important. Long-term sustainability of the northern white-cedar resource, for example, is a concern due to widespread problems with regeneration and recruitment and the advanced age of the managed resource in many regions. My research contributes both to effective forest management and long-term forest sustainability.

  • University of Maine, Ph.D., Forest Resources, 2000
  • State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, M.S., Forest Resource Management, 1995
  • State University of New York at Binghamton, B.A., Environmental Studies, 1992
Professional Organizations
  • Member, Division Deputy Coordinator (2010-2014),  International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO),  2010 - Current
  • Member,  Ecological Society of America,  1999 - Current
  • Member, Working Group Chair (2002-2004, 2018-2019), Forest Science Coordinator (2004-2006),  New England Society of American Foresters,  1995 - Current
  • Member, Working Group Communications Coordinator (2003-2005, 2016-2018),  Society of American Foresters (SAF),  1995 - Current
  • Member, Northern Research Station Representative, Chair (2011-2012),  U.S. Forest Service, Experimental Forest and Range Working Group,  2009 - 2012
Awards & Recognition
  • David M. Smith Award, 2020
    New England Society of American Foresters award for research, teaching, or the field application of silviculture
  • Ernest M. Gould, Jr. Technology Transfer Award, 2019
    New England Society of American Foresters award for outstanding contribution to natural resource science and management through education, extension, or youth service
  • Inspiring Women Award, 2017
    U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station award for outstanding leadership achievement
  • Leadership Award, 2012
    U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station award for outstanding dedication and leadership in sustaining experimental forests
  • Extra Effort Award, 2011
    U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station award for contribution to the Experimental Forest and Range Working Group
  • Recognition, 2008
    Maine Society of American Forests recognition of efforts in support of the forestry education network
  • Molly Beattie Young Forester Leadership Award, 2006
    New England Society of American Foresters award for leadership benefiting the practice of forestry
  • Early Career Scientist Award, 2005
    U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station award for research accomplishment
  • Multicultural Achievement Award, 2004
    U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station and Northeastern Area, Civil Rights Committee award for efforts to support women in forestry
  • Customer Service Award, 2001
    U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station and Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry award for technology transfer
  • Dow - Griffee Award, 1999
    University of Maine, Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station combined George F. Dow and Fred Griffee award for research accomplishment
  • Charles E. Schomaker Award, 1998
    University of Maine, College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture award for outstanding research in forestry
Other Publications
Research Highlights

Tribal Collaboration Spreads Knowledge of Invasive Plants

Year: 2016
In a unique collaboration aimed at training the next generation of natural resource professionals, the Forest Service partnered with the University of Maine, Wabanaki Center, Maine tribes, and others to support an internship program for Native American youth. Over 2 years, the project supported eigh...

Sustainable Northern Conifer Forest Management Stores More Carbon than Exploitative Harvesting

Year: 2016
An important part of climate change mitigation is carbon storage in forests and wood products. Yet managers are often uncertain about which management approaches maximize carbon storage. New findings from long-term research in northern conifers in Maine reveal that sustainable forest management resu...

Earth Camps Connect Students to Nature

Year: 2013
The University of Maine's first high school forest resource camps, a partnership with the Forest Service's Northern Research Station, attracted 34 students from diverse demographic groups across the Northeast. Students explored natural resource management and ecology issues, and learned about potent...

New Management Guide Offers Strategies for Northern White-Cedar

Year: 2012
Guide contains newly discovered and proven management strategies for one of the least-studied commercially important North American tree species

Hardwood-Softwood Mixtures for Future Forests in Eastern North America: Assessing Suitability to Projected Climate Change

Year: 2016
Despite growing interest in management strategies for climate change adaptation, there are few methods for assessing the ability of stands to endure or adapt to projected future climates. Forest Service scientists developed a means for assigning climate “compatibility” and “adaptability” scores to s...

“Smart Forests” Digital Environmental Sensors and Telecommunications Take Research to New Levels

Year: 2015
Scientific breakthroughs of the 21st century will be powered by tools that help researchers collect and manipulate massive datasets, visualize that data, and offer new ways of understanding the scientific processes behind that information. Forest Service scientists are taking a lead in developing a ...