USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station


Pacific Southwest Research Station
800 Buchanan Street
West Annex Building
Albany, CA 94710-0011

(510) 559-6300

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Science that makes a difference.

The Pacific Southwest Research Station is a world leader in natural resources research through our scientific excellence and responsiveness to the needs of current and future generations.

We represent the research and development branch of the USDA Forest Service in the states of California and Hawaii and the U.S. affiliated Pacific Islands. Our primary work occurs in California (the most populous state with the fifth largest economy in the world) and Hawaii (a strategic location in the Pacific Rim economies and tourism).
Our mission is to develop and communicate science needed to sustain forest ecosystems and their benefits to society.

[image-text]: What's New

PSW Entomologist Dr. Jackie Robertson and her niece Marissa, after the University of Maryland 2013 graduation ceremony. Courtesy Robertson FamilyRemembering a Legacy - Dr. Jacqueline “Jackie” Robertson was a multifaceted woman—teacher, writer (both scientific and nonfiction literature), software developer, advisor, editor,  equestrian—but at the Pacific Southwest Research Station, we remember her most as an amazing researcher, dedicated entomologist, and one of the first women to head a research project in the Forest Service. Dr. Robertson passed away on July 21, 2014, but her name and work will resonate throughout the Research Station for years to come.

Dr. Robertson began her nearly three-decade federal career with PSW, after receiving an undergraduate degree in zoology with a minor in history from the University of California–Berkeley in 1969. She received her Ph.D. in entomology, from UC Berkeley in 1973. 

Dr. Robertson has been a pioneer, with an expansive collection of publications, collaborations, and influential contributions to science. During her tenure with the Station, Dr. Robertson had many notable accomplishments. Among them, she received the USDA Honor Group Award for Excellence for exceptional performance, creativity, and perseverance in challenging Japan's long-standing varietal testing trade restriction; the C. W. Woodworth Award for outstanding accomplishments in entomology in the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America; the International Union of Forestry Related Organizations Scientific Achievement Award for application of new statistical methods to problems in forest entomology; and the USDA Superior Service Award for significant improvements in applying statistical procedures, and enhancing the quality and usefulness of insecticides in forestry—just to name a few.

She was born in Petaluma, Calif., the daughter of the late Col. John L. Schwartz (USMC Ret) and Nina P. (Klemenok) Schwartz. A childhood of military relocations led to her desire to return to, and remain in, northern California.

"When in high school, Jackie read the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson," said her PSW colleague Haiganoush Preisler. "The book had a deep effect on her so that when she took a job as an applied entomologist at PSW, she made it her personal mission to find a safer alternative to protect conifers from defoliators such as tussock moths and budworms." 

Work at a science laboratory could be tedious and dull; so when approached to write a book on bioassays (experiments that use living things to test the toxicity of chemicals), Dr. Robertson decided to have some fun. She applied what she called Robertson’s First Law which states "scientific writing need not be dry, dull and dreary."  So, she created a heroine, Dr. Maven, who was trying to become an expert in the subject of quantal response bioassays. She started each chapter with a paragraph about Dr. Maven going about the lab trying to teach her students how to deliver precise doses of insecticides using water pistols. Humor aside, the book was very popular among researchers and students and as one reviewer said, it was "a bible for those who design and/or conduct and interpret bioassays."  Dr. Robertson was working on the third edition of the book when she passed.

"What I liked most about Jackie was her irreverent sense of humor," said her fellow entomologist Nancy Gillette.  “One of the most relevant memories I have is when Jackie was given a major award by IUFRO (International Union of Forestry Research Organizations) and went to Ljubljana (then in Yugoslavia) for the acceptance speech. As I recall, she showed up in full cowgirl regalia, including a 10-gallon Stetson hat, which was undoubtedly a first for IUFRO.  Jackie had actually refused to go to Ljubljana at first, I think because she didn't want to be away from work that long. She was finally ordered to go by Paul Guilkey, Deputy Station Director at that time, someone to be reckoned with … Jackie had a wickedly funny sense of humor and rejected any kind of pomposity."

Dr. Robertson has surely left her mark on research and entomology, and on the lives of many people around her. Her life, research, and legacy will forever be remembered.  

Smoke emissions from debris piles (background) with plastic covers (not shown) were measured in burning mixtures of wood and polyethylene plastic (foreground). The addition of the plastic to the burning wood had little to no effect on trace gas and particulate emissions. Photo credit: David Weise, USDA Forest Service) Study gives new perspective on agricultural plastic, debris burning, and air quality - To reduce fire hazard in the United States, wildland managers often utilize the silvicultural practice of mechanically cutting woody shrubs and suppressed trees (ladder fuels). These cuttings and other post-logging debris are then burned during periods of low fire danger in order to dispose of the material. To improve the burning and minimize hazardous air pollutants, managers often cover all or part of the debris pile with low-density polyethylene plastic, commonly referred to as agricultural plastic, in order to keep water out. A recent study published in the Journal of the Air and Water Association shows that inclusion of agricultural plastic in debris piles has no effect on smoke emissions. [Read the full news release at

This prescribed burn in maritime chaparral at Vandenberg Air Force Base demonstrates that describing the burning vegetation is critical to reliably predicting the impact of wildland fire on greenhouse gas emissions and black carbon. Photo credit: Joey Chong, USDA Forest ServiceState of wildland fire emissions, carbon, and climate research - Scientists know that wildland fire emissions play a significant role in the global carbon cycle and that its principal component – carbon dioxide – is a primary driver of climate change. But predicting and quantifying the effects of potential future emissions is a difficult process requiring the integration of complex interactions of climate, fire, and vegetation. The current state of knowledge, critical knowledge gaps, and importance of fire emissions for global climate and terrestrial carbon cycling is the focus of nine science syntheses published in a special issue in the Forest Ecology and Management journal titled, Wildland Fire Emissions, Carbon, and Climate: Science Overview and Knowledge Needs. [Read the full news release at

Female woodland salamander subject animal. Photo credit: Garth Hodgson, USDA Forest ServicePredation on invertebrates by woodland salamanders increases carbon capture - Woodland salamanders perform a vital ecological service in American forests by helping to mitigate the impacts of global warming. Global warming occurs when greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. Woodland salamanders facilitate the capture of this carbon before it is released by feeding on invertebrates (beetles, earthworms, snails, ants, etc.) that would otherwise release carbon through consumption of fallen leaves and other forest debris. Woodland salamanders are the most common vertebrate species in American forests; consequently, these small, seldom-seen animals may play a significant role in regulating the capture of carbon from leaf litter in forest soils. [Read the full news release at]

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[image-text]: Recent Publications

Cover image psw-gtr-242Busse, Matt D.; Hubbert, Ken R.; Moghaddas, Emily E. Y. 2014. Fuel Reduction Practices and Their Effects on Soil Quality. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-241. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 156 p.

Cover image psw-gtr-244Pope, Karen; Brown, Catherine; Hayes, Marc; Green, Gregory; Macfarlane, Diane, tech. coords. 2014. Cascades frog conservation assessment. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-244. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 116 p.

Cover image psw-rp-266 Hugh D. Safford and Kip M. Van de Water. 2014. Using Fire Return Interval Departure (FRID) Analysis to Map Spatial and Temporal Changes in Fire Frequency on National Forest Lands in California. Res. Pap. PSW-RP-266. Albany, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 59 p.

[image-text]: Featured Science

Global Climate Change

Last Modified: Aug 21, 2014 03:04:14 PM