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Dr. Richard Birdsey Wins Forest Service Distinguished Science Award

Photo of Richard Birdsey Newtown Square, PA, February 1, 2011 - Dr. Richard Birdsey of the USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station received the 2010 Distinguished Science Award today from Forest Service Deputy Chief for Research and Development Jim Reaves.  This award recognizes sustained research productivity; contributions of major impact on science or technology; scientific leadership; application and benefits of the research; and service over a scientist's career. 

“Dr. Birdsey is recognized internationally as a leader in developing and implementing climate change mitigation strategies involving forests and sustainable forest management," said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station. “I am delighted that Rich’s contributions to accurately assessing and mitigating the impacts of a changing climate have been honored by this prestigious award.” 

Birdsey’s research team developed the concept of using forests to help mitigate climate change through sustainable management, and pioneered the methodology for monitoring and reporting changes in forest carbon based on national forest inventories, an approach now globally recognized as the best way for nations to report their forest greenhouse gas emissions and sinks. In 2008, he shared in the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007, based on substantial contributions to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since the inception of the organization in 1991. 

Dr. Birdsey has a consistent track record of developing leading-edge research products, including the first inventory of the forests of Puerto Rico in 1980, the first report of a nation’s forest greenhouse gas inventory in 1990, and the first analysis of carbon changes in U.S. forests including the potential for reducing greenhouse gases through forest management.  In 2007 he led a synthesis of the forest carbon cycle for North America (Canada, U.S., and Mexico) and in 2010 he worked with a U.S. team to synthesize the state-of-knowledge about forests and carbon for the U.S.  

Birdsey is the program manager for the Northern Research Station’s Climate, Fire and Carbon Cycle research program. He is a member of the Society of American Foresters and the Ecological Society of America.  He is a native of Meriden, Connecticut, and served in Peace Corps Ecuador from 1976-1978.  He is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry.  He currently resides in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The mission of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit


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Last modified: February 1, 2011