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Sara A. Goeking

Sara A. Goeking
Supervisory Biological Scientist
Inventory and Monitoring
507 25th Street
Ogden, UT 84401
United States
Current Research

My work seeks to develop more spatially explicit analyses and novel applications of FIA data that will enhance our understanding of forest dynamics such as mortality, disturbance, and land use/land cover change. Current research projects include:

  • Linking forest dynamics with water resources - This work combines ground-based FIA measurements with remote sensing and hydrologic data to study the effects of forest disturbance on ecohydrologic processes. Our goal is to evaluate the effects of observed and projected future forest dynamics on water availablity, both for downstream users and for forests.
  • Whitebark and limber pine monitoring across the western US - This ongoing study capitalizes on the spatial and temporal representativeness of the FIA dataset to assess high-elevation 5-needle pines throughout their US ranges. Previous results indicate that the distribution of whitebark pines is far more widespread among mixed-composition stands – particularly the lodgepole pine forest type – than in pure whitebark pine stands, and that mortality has outpaced growth for both whitebark and limber pine in recent years.
  • International outreach and tech transfer - In addition to my ongoing work with FIA data, I periodically serve temporary assignments with USFS International Programs and represent the US Forest Service and SilvaCarbon to the Global Forest Observations Initiative. I provide technical assistance to other countries in the areas of data quality assurance (quality assessment and quality control, or QA/QC), definition of forest monitoring objectives, field data collection, and analysis/reporting.
  • Riparian forests - This collaboration involves multiple stakeholders who are developing recommendations for restoration of riparian forests in Utah. The results of the collaboration will be published as a guide for land owners and managers who want to implement riparian forest restoration projects.
Past Research
My previous research projects included the following:
  • Comparison of historical vs. current forest conditions - To understand how forests have changed over the recent decades and continue to change, I developed methods for comparing historical (periodic) versus current (annual) forest inventories, with a focus on differences among various forest types and land management groups.
  • Fire effects - Several FIA analysts are collaborating to quantify the effects of fire on basal area among various forest types.
  • Field data collection - I was fortunate to serve as an FIA field crew leader when I first came to the Forest Service. My work with the RMRS-FIA Data Collection Team also involved streamlining and expanding the scope of FIA Pre-field workflows so that we now collect basic land use, land cover, and tree canopy cover data on all FIA plots.
  • Riparian vegetation and sandbar monitoring - Prior to joining FIA, most of my work focused on spatial analysis of riparian vegetation and sandbar storage in the Colorado River basin, and analysis of multi-temporal surveys and historical air photos to quantify past and current responses to hydroelectric flow regulation in a historical context.
Research Interest

I am interested in all things geospatial, because nearly all ecological and hydrological processes vary spatially across the landscape. I apply modelling and remote sensing tools to expand the utility of our rich forest inventory dataset to multiple forest values, such as water resources, with a focus on disturbance effects on hydrology in the semi-arid Western US.

Why This Research Is Important

Forest managers, stakeholders, and the general public rely on good science to provide high-quality data on the condition and trends in forests across all lands, and FIA provides that information. The spatial and temporal intensity of FIA's plots allow us to provide forest information that is statistically robust and representative at the landscape level. A tremendous strength of the FIA dataset is the size and spatial representativeness of the sample, with about 90,000 plots - roughly 35,000 of which are forested - in the Interior West states. As an FIA analyst, I strive to continually develop innovative analyses that are useful to land managers and other scientists. FIA functions as the nation's forest census by collecting mountains of data, and FIA analysts need to paint those mountains of data as an information landscape that can be easily seen and interpreted by our customers.

  • Utah State University, Ph.D., Watershed Sciences, 2022
  • Utah State University, M.S., Forest Ecology, 2003
  • Utah State University, B.S., Environmental Studies and Plant Science, 1996
Professional Organizations
  • Member,  American Water Resources Association,  2021 - Current
  • Member,  American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS),  2020 - Current
  • Member,  American Geophysical Union (AGU),  2018 - Current
  • Member,  Society for Conservation GIS,  2015 - Current
  • Member,  Society of American Foresters (SAF),  2010 - Current
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Citations of Non-Forest Service Publications
  • Schmidt, J.C., Topping, D.J., Rubin, D.M., Hazel, J.E., Jr., Kaplinski, M., Wiele, S.M., and Goeking, S.A., 2007. Streamflow and sediment data collected to determine the effects of low summer steady flows and habitat maintenance flows in 2000 on the Colorado River between Lees Ferry and Bright Angel Creek, Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2007-1268, 79 p. [].
  • Grams, P.E., J.C. Schmidt, D.J. Topping, and S.A. Goeking, S., 2004. The degraded reach: rate and pattern of bed and bank adjustment of the Colorado River in the 25 km immediately downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. Technical report to the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, 111 p.

  • Goeking, S.A., 2003. Long-term dynamics of riparian vegetation, and their relation to hydrology and geomorphology, along the Green River in the Uintah Basin. Master’s Thesis, Utah State University, Logan.

  • Goeking, S.A., J.C. Schmidt, and M.K. Webb, 2003. Spatial and temporal trends in the size and number of backwaters between 1935 and 2000, Marble and Grand Canyons, Arizona. Technical report to USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, 15 p.

  • Schmidt, J. C., S.A. Goeking, D.J. Topping, D. Rubin, B. Lockwood, J.E. Hazel, M. Kaplinski, S. Wiele, and M. Franseen, 2003. Stream flow and sediment data collected to determine the effects of low summer steady flows and habitat maintenance flows in 2000 on the Colorado River between Lees Ferry and Bright Angel Creek, Arizona. Technical report to the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, 54 p.

  • Schmidt, J.C., D.J. Topping, S.A. Goeking, H. Sondossi, J.E. Hazel, and P.E. Grams, 2002. System-wide changes in the distribution of fine-grained alluvium in the Colorado River corridor between Lees Ferry and Bright Angel Creek, Arizona, 1980s to 2001. Technical report to the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, 86 p.

  • Birchell, G.J., K. Christopherson, C. Crosby, T.A. Crowl, J. Gourley, M. Townsend, S. Goeking, T. Modde, M. Fuller, and P. Nelson, 2002. The levee removal project: assessment of floodplain habitat restoration in the middle Green River. Final report. Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program Project CAP-6-LR. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City. 257 pages + appendices.

Research Highlights

Landscape-scale assessments of whitebark pine

Year: 2018
Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) is an ecologically important species in high-altitude areas of the Western United States. Whitebark pine stands throughout its U.S. range have recently experienced high mortality due to wildfire, white pine blister rust, and a mountain pine beetle outbreak. A recent...

Disturbance Effects on Water Yield in Western Coniferous Forests

Year: 2020
Decades of research on interactions between forest dynamics and water supply has suggested that water availability increases as forest cover decreases. This led to the expectation that water yield would increase following recent widespread tree mortality in the West. However, in many cases, water yi...

Annual Inventory of New Mexico's Forests More Accurate Thanks to Stratification Key

Year: 2013
The Forest Inventory and Analysis Program must provide unbiased estimates of forest area. An accurate baseline of New Mexico's forests and future estimates now exists and can be compared against this baseline to detect changes over time.

Comprehensive Inventory of Forest Health Trends in New Mexico

Year: 2014
The public, forest managers, and scientists now have the most comprehensive inventory of forest health trends in New Mexico's history. The report "New Mexico's Forest Resources, 2008-2012," summarizes the most recent inventory of New Mexico's forests based on field data collected from more than 3,00...