Scientists & Staff

Laura Kenefic

Laura Kenefic

Research Forester, Team Leader
54 Government Road
Bradley, ME, 04411
Phone: 207-581-2794

Contact Laura Kenefic

Current Research

  • Ecology and Silviculture of Mixed-Species Stands - Recent and ongoing projects include short- and long-term dynamics of multi-aged stands (with a focus on selection, diameter-limit, and other forms of partial cutting), rehabilitation of degraded stands, regeneration substrates and dynamics, stand and sub-stand structure, and relationships between forest management and understory vegetation. Many of these projects are in collaboration with University of Maine faculty and graduate students. Much of my work is on the Penobscot Experimental Forest in Maine, but I also conduct research on the Dukes Experimental Forest in Michigan and in cooperation with a number of large landowners and Northern Forest managers. My research addresses the northern conifer (hemlock - spruce - fir) and northern hardwood (beech - birch - maple) forest types, with an emphasis on mixedwood stands (i.e., hardwood - softwood mixtures).
  • Sustainability - I am a principal investigator in a cross-border study of northern white-cedar ecology and silviculture, in collaboration with Laval University (Quebec), the Canadian Forest Service, and the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Parks, and Wildlife. I also have been working with University of Maine and NRS colleagues on studies of soil-site-growth relationships, the long-term effects of harvesting on site productivity, the role of site in determining sub-stand-level variation in silvicultural outcomes, and residual stand and regeneration implications of mechanized partial harvesting.
  • Experimental Forest Research - My research portfolio includes a number of long-term (foundational) studies on experimental forests. These studies, which originated as many as 80+ years ago, provide unusually robust findings about management outcomes. In addition to using historical work to answer contemporary forest management questions (e.g., effect of silviculture on carbon storage), I am working with the Forest Service's Research Data Archive to make data from long-term studies of forest ecology and management publicly available. 

Research Interests

In addition to ongoing studies, I would like to expand my research in the areas of rehabilitation of degraded stands; ecology and silviculture of northern white-cedar, and networking and synthesis of long-term silvicultural experiments such as those on experimental forests.

Why This Research is Important

The forests of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada are structurally and compositionally complex, and recent trends in forest management have been toward silvicultural systems that maintain or increase complexity of structure and species. However, the dynamics of mixed-species and multi-aged stands are incompletely understood, and information about ecosystem response to management in both the short- and long-term is needed. I am using current studies, as well as archived data and intact plots from early Forest Service research, to address problems of contemporary forest management. Additionally, focus on potentially at-risk components of complex ecosystems and forests degraded by past mismanagement is important. Long-term sustainability of the northern white-cedar resource, for example, is a concern due to widespread problems with regeneration and recruitment and the advanced age of the managed resource in many regions. My research contributes both to effective forest management and long-term forest sustainability.

Professional Organizations

  • Ecological Society of America (1999 - Current)
  • New England Society of American Foresters (1995 - Current)
    Management and Utilization Working Group
  • Society of American Foresters (SAF) (1995 - Current)
    Silviculture Working Group
  • U.S. Forest Service, Experimental Forest and Range Working Group (2009 - 2012)

Awards & Recognition

  • Inspiring Women Award, 2017 U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station award for outstanding leadership
  • Molly Beattie Young Forester Leadership Award, 2006 New England Society of American Foresters award for leadership benefiting the practice of forestry
  • Early Career Scientist Award, 2005 U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station award for research accomplishment
  • Multicultural Achievement Award, 2004 U.S. Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station and Northeastern Area, Civil Rights Committee award for efforts to support women in forestry

Publications & Products

Research Datasets

  • Olson, Elizabeth K.; Kenefic, Laura S.; Zukswert, Jenna M.; Langley, CJ M.; Dibble, Alison C.; Muñoz Delgado, Bethany L. 2019. Understory vegetation and site condition data from the "Nonnative Invasive Plants" study at the Penobscot Experimental Forest. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.
  • Kenefic, Laura S.; Gerndt, Kathryn M.; Rogers, Nicole S.; Castle, Mark E.; Weiskittel, Aaron R. 2018. Data from the "Tree Quality Outcomes of Silvicultural Treatments" study at the Penobscot Experimental Forest. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.
  • Kenefic, Laura S.; Knapp, Rachel A.; Waskiewicz, Justin D.; Wilson, Jeremy S. 2016. Overstory and regeneration data from the "Rehabilitation of cutover mixedwood stands" study at the Penobscot Experimental Forest. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.
  • Kenefic, Laura S.; Rogers, Nicole S.; Puhlick, Joshua J.; Waskiewicz, Justin D.; Brissette, John C. 2015. Overstory tree and regeneration data from the "Silvicultural Effects on Composition, Structure, and Growth" study at Penobscot Experimental Forest (2nd Edition). Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.
  • Rogers, Nicole S.; Kenefic, Laura S.; Kimball, Alan J.; Brissette, John C. 2014. Penobscot Experimental Forest boundary, roads, trails, management units, and permanent sample plot locations. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.
  • Waskiewicz, Justin D.; Kenefic, Laura S.; Puhlick, Joshua J.; Rogers, Nicole S.; Brissette, John C. 2014. Overstory tree and regeneration data from the "Management Intensity Demonstration" study at Penobscot Experimental Forest. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.
  • Brissette, John C.; Kenefic, Laura S.; Russell, Matthew B. 2012. Precommercial thinning x fertilization study data from the Penobscot Experimental Forest. Newtown Square, PA: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station.
  • Brissette, John C.; Kenefic, Laura S.; Russell, Matthew B.; Puhlick, Joshua J. 2012. Overstory tree and regeneration data from the "Silvicultural Effects on Composition, Structure, and Growth" study at Penobscot Experimental Forest. Newtown Square, PA: USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station.

National Research Highlights

Well-managed northern conifer forests were found to store more carbon than those that have been exploitatively harvested. Laura Kenefic, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Sustainable Northern Conifer Forest Management Stores More Carbon than Exploitative Harvesting

Year: 2016

An important part of climate change mitigation is carbon storage in forests and wood products. Yet managers are often uncertain about which management approaches maximize carbon storage. New findings from long-term research in northern conifers in Maine reveal that sustainable forest management results in greater carbon storage than exploitative harvesting.

Native American student interns identify plants during inventory at the Penobscot Experimental Forest in Maine. Kevin Brusie, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Tribal Collaboration Spreads Knowledge of Invasive Plants

Year: 2016

In a unique collaboration aimed at training the next generation of natural resource professionals, the Forest Service partnered with the University of Maine, Wabanaki Center, Maine tribes, and others to support an internship program for Native American youth. Over 2 years, the project supported eight student interns and resulted in a new interpretive trail for professionals and community members, highlighting negative effects of nonnative invasive plants and demonstrating mechanical and chemical control.

Examples of mixedwood types in eastern North America: A) shortleaf pine – oak forest in southern Missouri (credit: Missouri Department of Conservation); B) white pine – red oak forest in southern Maine (credit: Justin Waskiewicz); C) spruce – fir – hardwood forest in Quebec (credit: Patricia Raymond); D) hemlock – hardwood forest in northern Wisconsin. Kate Gerndt.

Hardwood-Softwood Mixtures for Future Forests in Eastern North America: Assessing Suitability to Projected Climate Change

Year: 2016

Despite growing interest in management strategies for climate change adaptation, there are few methods for assessing the ability of stands to endure or adapt to projected future climates. Forest Service scientists developed a means for assigning climate “compatibility” and “adaptability” scores to stands for assessing the suitability of tree species for projected climate scenarios. They used these scores to determine if mixed hardwood-softwood stands or “mixedwoods” were better suited to projected future climates than pure hardwood or pure softwood stands.

Phenocam and Antenna on top of the pierce laboratory at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH. USDA Forest Service

“Smart Forests” Digital Environmental Sensors and Telecommunications Take Research to New Levels

Year: 2015

Scientific breakthroughs of the 21st century will be powered by tools that help researchers collect and manipulate massive datasets, visualize that data, and offer new ways of understanding the scientific processes behind that information. Forest Service scientists are taking a lead in developing a national Experimental Forests and Ranges “Smart Forests” Network. This network of wired forests uses digital environmental sensors, wireless communications, and new data visualization programs to create a powerful integrated research and monitoring program for the nation’s air, water, forest and rangeland resources.

The Discover the Forest and earth camps attracted diverse candidates from across the Northeastern United States. Kyle Lolar

Earth Camps Connect Students to Nature

Year: 2013

The University of Maine's first high school forest resource camps, a partnership with the Forest Service's Northern Research Station, attracted 34 students from diverse demographic groups across the Northeast. Students explored natural resource management and ecology issues, and learned about potential fields of study and career opportunities.

White cedar browsed by deer.  Laura Kenefic, Forest Service

New Management Guide Offers Strategies for Northern White-Cedar

Year: 2012

Guide contains newly discovered and proven management strategies for one of the least-studied commercially important North American tree species

Last modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2019