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Scientists & Staff

Mark D. Nelson

Research Forester
Forest Inventory & Analysis
1992 Folwell Avenue
St. Paul, Minnesota 55108-1034
Phone: 651-649-5104

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Current Research

I conduct research to support the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program. FIA is responsible for the inventory of United States forest land across all ownership categories. Within the Northern Research Station, FIA conducts inventories for 24 states of the Northeast, Midwest, and Upper Great Plains. I develop and assess geospatial approaches for making FIA estimates more spatially explicit and relevant to a wider range of natural resources. My current research involves the use of forest inventory data, geospatial data, and satellite imagery for assessing and mapping forest cover/use, type, biomass, disturbance, and wildlife habitat. I serve as the lead analyst for Iowa's FIA reports.

Research Interests

  1. Improving our spatial understanding of forest resources.
  2. Assessing forest wildlife habitat.
  3. Mapping and analyzing forest disturbance.

Why This Research is Important

People increasingly are asking not only what forest resources are present, but where are they located and how are they arranged within the forest landscape. By integrating field inventory data with satellite remote sensing imagery and other geospatial datasets, we can improve our understanding of the spatial distribution and variability of forest resources. Geospatial information derived from this data integration provides for improved assessments of wildlife habitat for species that are dependent upon both vegetation structure and spatial pattern of forest patches.


  • University of Minnesota, Ph.D. Natural Resources Science and Management, 2005
  • University of Minnesota, M.S. Wildlife Conservation, 1992
  • Winona State University, B.A. Biology, 1982

Professional Organizations

  • Forest Science, Associate Editor (2013 - Current)
  • Journal of Forestry, Journal Referee (2012 - Current)
  • International Association for Landscape Ecology (U.S. Chapter), Member (2011 - Current)
  • International Journal of Remote Sensing, Journal Referee (2008 - Current)
  • Landscape Ecology, Journal Referee (2008 - Current)
  • The Wildlife Society, Member (2006 - Current)
  • Remote Sensing of Environment, Journal Referee (2005 - Current)
  • American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Member (2001 - Current)
  • Northern Journal of Applied Forestry (GIS and Remote Sensing), Associate Editor (2010 - 2013)

Awards & Recognition

  • Keepsake award. Northern Research Station Executive Team, USDA Forest Service., 2011
    Team award (Nelson was team leader) in recognition for 2011 Research Highlight: Using Landsat Time Series Stacks for modeling and mapping early successional habitats.
  • Certificate of Appreciation. Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry, USDA Forest Service., 2010
    Certificate of Appreciation. 2010. Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry, USDA Forest Service. For developing the forest ownership data used in the Private Forests, Public Benefits report and for valuable advice and assistance with many other aspects
  • Wings Across the Americas Award. Chief, USDA Forest Service., 2008
    Group award for significant contribution to mapping landbirds across Bird Conservation Regions: decision support for Joint Ventures.
  • Secretary of Agriculture Group Honor Award for Excellence. Secretary, USDA., 2008
    Open Space Conservation Team - for significant contributions in protecting and enhancing open space and natural resources that provide vital ecosystems services and benefi
  • Certificate of Appreciation. Chief, USDA Forest Service., 2005
    Forests on the Edge Project. For hard work and dedication in assembling a map accurately depicting national forest cover and ownership, and for providing key professional advice.
  • Station Technology Transfer Award. Director, North Central Research Station, USDA Forest Service., 2001
    Group award for advancement of the Forest Inventory and Analysis annual inventory; and Forest Inventory and Analysis/Forest Health integration, through conception, development, implementation, distribution, and support of a national hexagon grid sampling

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Forest Land Estimates Improved by Novel Automated Mapping Technique Using Winter Satellite Imagery (2011)
Most automated satellite-based approaches for mapping forest lands rely on summer satellite imagery and are usually inconsistent with FIA plot-based estimates. Incorporating winter imagery in the mapping approach helps reduce the abundant false positives for forest and forest disturbance that frequently occur during the growing season, especially where forest is intermixed with wetland and agricultural landscapes. Reliable estimates of forest lands between FIA field plots allow customers the opportunity to explore forest dynamics more confidently beyond the grid of FIA plots.

Mapping Young Forest Habitats across the Great Lakes Region (2010)
NRS research scientists from the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program used current FIA data to estimate trends in abundance of young forest habitats that were associated with corresponding trends in American woodcock surveys over the past four decades.

Last updated on : 02-Feb-2016