October 2020

From basic shelter to high-end finishing and furniture, wood is ingrained in our lives. Northern Research Station science includes research supporting a sustainable future for timber as well as the forest products industry.

This month, we present a scientist who asked millenials what they know about forest products; research aimed at improving growing conditions for black walnut; and a partnership that addresses land managers’ questions about prescribed fire and timber quality.

Environmental Education

National Forest Timber Sales and Timber Cuts, FY 1980-2018Explore National Forest timber harvest data from across the country, by region, state, or National Forest.

Featured Scientist

Iris Montague

Iris Montague.As a child growing up in Huntsville, Ala., Iris Montague spent most of her free time riding her bike with friends and reading. Until she joined 4-H and Girl Scouts, the most memorable experiences she had outdoors were on her grandmother and uncle’s farm in the country. Beginning in middle school, Montague’s mother enrolled her in a STEM-related program at Alabama A&M University during the summer which ultimately led to a USDA 1890’s Scholarship to the same university.

Montague has a long history with the Forest Service due to the scholarship requirement that she work summers for the agency. While still in college she was drawn to wood products research. After graduating from Alabama A&M University with a bachelor’s degree, Montague went on to earn an MBA there. In 2004 she moved to Athens, GA to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Georgia in a program she designed that incorporated forestry, finance, and marketing.

For the past few years, Montague has focused on looking at ways to strengthen the competitiveness of the forest products industry; her research has explored supply chains, niche products, marketing strategies and consumer awareness of the industry. She has also investigated the extent to which the forest products industry uses social media to promote their products.

“Currently I am most excited about my research on millennials and their perceptions of forest products and the industry,” said Montague. Her research delivers data demonstrating gaps in knowledge that exist for the millennial generation about the wood products industry and its products.

“When I received that call from the Forest Service almost 30 years ago, I never imagined doing this type of work,” said Montague.  “The job has been very flexible and has allowed me to travel all over the country and meet all types of people. I appreciate the Forest Service’s commitment to training and allowing employees to detail and experience new opportunities. My journey with the Forest Service has been quite amazing!”

More about Iris Montague >>

Featured Research

Improving Growth of Black Walnut

Researcher Shaneka Lawson collects soil samples while in the field. These samples are collected from specific tree genotypes across a number of sites to compare growth over time. She standardizes all of her samples by collecting from the north side of the tree only. Climate change, increased temperatures, insect pests, and growing site characteristics may all hinder the ability of black walnut trees to consistently yield the most desirable nuts, lumber, and veneer. Forest managers and tree growers are concerned about how to optimize walnut tree growth and health in the face of these environmental threats. A recent study explores an often-overlooked factor in walnut growth – soil.

Black walnut is a native, deciduous tree found throughout the eastern United States that is highly valued as a source of food for a host of wildlife species as well as its strong wood and straight grain, which are highly prized in crafting fine furniture and veneer. Northern Research Station Plant Physiologist Shaneka Lawson, in partnership with researchers at North Carolina State University, University of Missouri, and Purdue University, is conducting an in-depth study of planted black walnut tree sites to investigate how soil characteristics affect tree growth.

“We are analyzing and evaluating soil nutrient content, water-holding capacities, and microbial community composition in black walnut plantations and seed orchards to see how they impact walnut tree growth,” said Lawson.

Lawson is part of the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC), a collaborative regional research, development and technology transfer effort among the Northern Research Station, industry, university, private, state and other federal entities. The goal of the collaborative is to advance tree improvement of central hardwoods for increased forest productivity in hardwood restoration and reforestation programs. Black walnut is one of principle species studied by HTIRC scientists.

Results of Lawson’s research will help forest managers and tree growers to take soil characteristics into account when they evaluate sites for their suitability in supporting successful walnut tree plantations and forest restoration efforts.

More information on the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center>>

Featured Partnership

Collaborative Oak Management in Southeast Ohio

Researchers at a sawmill inspecting logs.

For forest managers in the oak-dominated ecosystems of the eastern United States, prescribed fire is an important tool in perpetuating oak as well as in achieving wildlife habitat improvement, post-harvest site preparation, oak and pine regeneration, and range allotments. However, concern about reducing the value of overstory oak makes some managers wary of using fire as a management tool.

Northern Research Station scientists are part of an Interagency Forestry Team in Ohio that is working to allay concern about prescribed fire with research addressing questions about fire and timber quality. Alongside the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Purdue University, and the Wayne, Mark Twain, Hoosier, and Daniel Boone National Forests, Northern Research Station scientists are working to establish how prescribed fire affects timber volume, grade and value.

This summer, a team of researchers, foresters and ecologists convened at the Zaleski Sawmill in Ohio, one of the few state-operated sawmills in the country, to evaluate logs, saw the logs into lumber, and evaluate and grade timber from the Mark Twain and Wayne National Forests. The project involved many moving parts that were largely coordinated by members of the Ohio Interagency Forestry Team. Some of these moving parts included: approvals; harvesting, skidding, and hauling logistics and operations; log delivery and sorting at the Zaleski State Forest’s log yard; laser scanning; log bucking; marking logs for tracking; defect identification and measurement; sawing and edging more than 100 logs; grading the lumber recovered; and stacking the lumber for quality drying.

“A lot of coordination was required to facilitate this research and help us better understand the impacts of prescribed fire on the value of hardwood timber, so that public land managers and private woodland owners can have this information as they make decisions about their woods,” said Jarel Bartig, Ohio Interagency Liaison, a joint position with the Wayne National Forest and Natural Resources Conservation Service. “This research and the level of collaboration shown by all of the partners is an example of what shared stewardship is all about.”

Last updated: 09/30/2020