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Suzanne M. Owen

Natural Resources Specialist

Natural Resources Specialist

620 SW Main, Suite 400
Portland, OR 97205-3028
Contact Suzanne M. Owen

Current Research

  • Understanding resource benefits in urban forests
  • Characterizing patterns of tree regeneration following large wildfires in ponderosa pine forests
  • Quantifying effect of fire severity on post fire pine regeneration niches and seedling growth
  • Measuring effect of fire severity on mycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungal communities

Research Interests

  • Urban forestry
  • Plant, soil and soil microbial response to wildfires and fuel treatments
  • Disturbance and land management effects on ecosystem processes



Past Research

  • Soil, soil microbe and native/exotic plant responses to fuel reduction treatments
  • Soil amendment and plant neighbor effects on a native an exotic grass
  • Rehabilitating post-wildfire, cheatgrass invaded shrublands using Imazapic and seeding with native shrubs
  • Fuel treatments affect understory plant and soil community composition (mycorrhizal and PLFA profiles)

Pre Forest Service

Neal, S.M. (2007) Tree thinning treatments alter soil properties, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and plant communities. M.S. Thesis, Northern Arizona University.

Christie, Kyle; Currie, Michael; Davis, Laura Smith; Hill, Mar-Elise; Neal, Suzanne; Ayers, Tina. 2006. Vascular Plants of Arizona: Rhamnaceae. CANOTIA. 2(1): 23-46.


  • Northern Arizona University, Ph.D., Forest Science, 2019
  • Northern Arizona University, M.S., Biology, 2007
  • Northern Arizona University, B.S., Botany and Chemistry, 2004
  • Professional Experience

    Natural Resources Specialist, USDA Pacific Northwest Research Station
    2019 to present

    Chemist, USDA Rocky Mountain Research Station
    2010 to present

    Research Specialist, Northern Arizona University
    2007 to 2010

    Graduate Research Assistant, Northern Arizona University
    2004 to 2007

    Biological Science Technician, USDA Rocky Mountain Research Station
    2002 to 2005

    Professional Organizations

    • Association for Fire Ecology, Member ( 2014 to present )
    • International Association of Landscape Ecology, Member ( 2014 to present )
    • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Member ( 2015 to 2019 )


    Distinguished Scholar Award, 2019
    Northern Arizona University (2018-2019)
    Certificate of Merit, 2018
    USDA, Rocky Mountain Research Station (2010,2015,2018)
    Award for Academic and Research Achievements, 2017
    Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS Foundation, 2015-2017)


    Owen, Suzanne M.; Sieg, Carolyn H.; Meador, Andrew J. Sanchez.; Fule, Peter Z.; Iniguez, Jose; Baggett, Scott; Fornwalt, Paula J.; Battaglia, Mike A., 2017. Spatial patterns of ponderosa pine regeneration in high-severity burn patches
    Overby, Steven T.; Owen, Suzanne M.; Hart, Stephen C.; Neary, Daniel G.; Johnson, Nancy C., 2015. Soil microbial community resilience with tree thinning in a 40-year-old experimental ponderosa pine forest
    Owen, Suzanne M.; Sieg, Carolyn H.; Johnson, Nancy Collins; Gehring, Catherine A., 2013. Exotic cheatgrass and loss of soil biota decrease the performance of a native grass
    Alvarez-Sanchez, Javier; Johnson, Nancy C.; Antoninka, Anita; Chaudhary, V. Bala; Lau, Matthew K.; Owen, Suzanne M.; Gauadarrama, Patricia; Castillo, Silvia., 2010. Large-scale diversity patterns in spore communities of Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi [Chapter 2]
    Owen, Suzanne M.; Sieg, Carolyn H.; Gehring, Catherine A.; Bowker, Matthew A., 2009. Above- and belowground responses to tree thinning depend on the treatment of tree debris
    Mycorrhizal fungi attach to the roots of plants and produce fruiting bodies called sporocarps, or mushrooms.  Pines such as these ponderosa pine seedlings rely on these ectomycorrhizal fungi to provide them extra water and nutrients.  Photo by Suzanne Owe
    Soil fungi are important components of the soil microbial community that influence ecosystem resilience and stability after disturbances such as fire. Ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi increase water and nutrient uptake for their plant hosts in return for carbon. Saprotrophic fungi play an important role in nutrient cycling and are responsible for decomposing wood, plant litter, and soil organic matter. 
    Figure 1. A post-fire ponderosa pine seedling in a high-severity burn patch of the 2000 Pumpkin Fire, Arizona.
    Over the past three decades, wildfires in southwestern United States ponderosa pine forests have increased in size and severity, leaving large patches of tree mortality. Ponderosa pine evolved under fire regimes dominated by low- to moderate-severity wildfires, and they are poorly adapted to regenerating in large patches of high-severity fire. There is concern about these high-severity burn patches because the lack of seed-producing trees can prevent or significantly delay ponderosa pine regeneration.
    Wildfire has long been an important and complex disturbance agent in forests dominated by ponderosa pine in the western United States. However, many recent fires have burned with increased severity across large, contiguous areas, resulting in vast expanses with no surviving overstory trees. Researchers are looking at regeneration rates inponderosa pine forests after high-severity fires and examining the spatial patterns and environmental conditions in affected areas to help managers anticipate natural recovery and plan for post-fire management activities.
    Mechanical mastication is a fuel treatment that is increasingly prescribed to reduce aerial fuel continuity in forests or to remove encroaching trees in shrublands. Mastication shreds trees and shrubs and distributes the resulting woody debris across the topsoil, moving aerial fuels to the soil surface. This practice can inadvertently create ideal habitat for some exotic plant species that are highly invasive.
    Numerous factors influence the establishment and growth of tree seedlings after high-severity wildfires. Understanding spatial patterns and environmental conditions influencing ponderosa pine and aspen regeneration post-wildfire can help managers monitor natural recovery.

    National Strategic Program Areas: 
    Inventory and Monitoring; Resource Management and Use
    RMRS Science Program Areas: 
    Inventory and Monitoring