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Scientists & Staff

Tom Schuler, Research Forester

Thomas Schuler

Project Leader / Research Forester
Ecological and Economic Sustainability of the Appalachian Forest in an Era of Globalization
P.O. Box 404
Parsons, West Virginia 26287
Phone: 304-478-2000 x110

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Current Research

  • Silviculture of Appalachian forests with an emphasis on long-term patterns in productivity, species composition, and diversity.
  • Fire ecology of Appalachian forests, including the use of fire as a silvicultural tool to maintain and restore oak forests.
  • Restoration and stand dynamics of central Appalachian montane spruce communities
  • Disturbance ecology and management of running buffalo clover to protect and recover this federally endangered species.

Research Interests

  • Restoring, regenerating, and sustaining the mixed-oak forest type using a broad array of silvicultural practices appropriate to landowner capabilities, management objectives, and site characteristics.
  • Developing stand- and landscape-scale restoration guidelines for high-elevation conifer forests in the central and southern Appalachians. Defining priorities on landscape and regional scales based on likelihood of success with minimal input of resources and enhancement of habitat for endemic wildlife species of concern.
  • Recovering the federally endangered running buffalo clover through research and adaptive management to better understand RBC ecology and management needs.
  • Developing landscape-scale models to predict where standard and innovative silvicultural practices are most likely to achieve a broad array of management objectives, including high value commodity production, oak restoration, and high elevation spruce restoration, and habitat improvement, etc.

Why This Research is Important

Species composition of exploited forests are increasingly dominated by less desirable species and lower quality throughout the region. Even unmanaged forests and forest reserves are following the same pattern of compositional change. This has negative economic and ecological consequences for the entire central Appalachian region. To counteract this trend, it is important to understand how these forests developed in the past so forest managers can maintain compositional integrity and need structural characteristics using modern tools such as prescribed fire, herbicides, and the timing and extent of harvest operations. Guidelines for using these tools are a fundamental output of this research.


  • Purdue University, Ph.D. , 1998
  • Colorado State University, M.S. , 1987
  • Purdue University, B.S.F. , 1979

Professional Organizations

  • Society of American Foresters
  • International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO)
  • Running Buffalo Clover Recovery Team, NRS Silviculture Working Group

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Endangered Running Buffalo Clover Finds a Home in West Virginia (2013)
Running buffalo clover was once thought to be extinct but was rediscovered in 1983 and is now classified as a federally endangered species. It is still rare but grows on the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia. Forest Service researchers found that periodic partial harvesting appears to sustain the required habitat needed by this endangered species.

Fire in my hardwood forest... is my investment in my family's future lost (2014)
Does the idea "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" apply when a low- to medium-intensity wildfire or prescribed fire has run through a hardwood woodlot or forest stand Timing has a lot to do with the answer to this question: If the forest isn't harvested for several decades, or it is harvested in less than a year, your hardwood trees are likely to produce lumber products that are only minimally affected by the fire event.

Threats From Wind Energy Turbines Identified for Migrating Golden Eagles (2012)
National team studies movement ecology of eagles to understand behaviors that may put them at risk from energy development

Uneven-Aged Management: Is It Sustainable (2014)
A century ago, after almost all of the old-growth forests in the eastern United States had been harvested, forest managers turned to Europe for guidance on forest management. European-trained foresters were advancing the concept of uneven-aged management, which involved periodic removal of trees from all size classes to mimic the patterns of older, unmanaged forests. The uneven-aged management style has been studied on the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia for the past six decades and Forest Service scientists have recently synthesized the results and continue to inform our understanding of how forests grow.

Last updated on : 12-Nov-2015