US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy

Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy

Research Forester
P.O. Box 404
West Virginia
United States

Phone: 304-478-2000 x114
Contact Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy

Current Research

  • Fire regimes of the central Appalachians
  • Central Appalachian silviculture
  • Fire as a silvicultural tool in oak forests
  • Witness trees of the Monongahela National Forest
  • Red spruce recovery and restoration

Research Interests

I hope to continue to work at two scales, stand and landscape, as I build a body of work that includes both traditional silviculture and landscape ecology. I am interested in carrying on the long-term silvicultural studies of the Fernow Experimental Forest. I am also interested in the use of prescribed fire as a silvicultural tool to aid in oak regeneration and as a landscape-scale disturbance.

Why This Research is Important

Use of prescribed fire likely to increase and knowledge of fire history will help in determining where to return this disturbance regime.

In a part of the country without the benefit of General Land Office surveys, witness trees represent a snap-shot in time of species distributions. I hope to use the GIS based witness tree database to describe and categorize land-vegetation relationships of the area. Red spruce forests support rare species and are in slow recovery from era of exploitative forestry. Monongahela Forest Plan places emphasis on recovery and restoration of red spruce and spruce-hardwood forests. Research is needed to help define and achieve goals.


  • West Virginia University, Ph.D. Forest Resources Sciences 2011
  • State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, M.S. resource management/silviculture 1992
  • Davis and Elkins College, B.S. pre-forestry 1989

Professional Organizations

  • Society Of American Foresters West Virginia Chapter, Vice Chair (2011 - Current)

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


Roles of Fire, Browse, and Canopy Gaps in the Understory of an Oak-dominated Forest

Current forests developed under conditions different from original forests, with more deer, less fire, and smaller canopy gaps. The difference r ...


Using a Landscape Model for Planning Red Spruce Restoration in West Virginia

A new Forest Service model was developed to answer specific questions about meeting restoration goals for red spruce while protecting habitat fo ...


Witness Trees Reveal Where to Restore Fire

To help land managers make decisions and plan for restoration of oak-dominated forests, witness trees from early surveys were used by a Forest S ...


Last updated on : 10/21/2016