USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Publications and Products

Faces of Research

  • A photo of Carol Shestak using a piece of equipment for monitoring soil.
    Carol Shestak, biogeochemist

    To understand the health of the forest, like most things, youíve got to start from the ground up. Biogeochemist Carol Shestak followed her diverse passions for chemistry and environmental science to find a unique career studying soil microbiology with the U.S. Forest Service. Even though her work is focused on soil microorganisms, she doesnít keep her eyes fixed on "the dirt," for too long, knowing that soil health is the foundation of the forest itself. "To most people itís just dirt on the bottom of your shoe," she says, "but itís much more when you consider that it really is a living organism."

  • A photo of Kathryn Purcell smiling while holding a bird.
    Kathryn Purcell, research wildlife biologist

    As a girl growing up without much science mentorship, Kathryn Purcell thought the only way she could combine her love for the outdoors with a career was to become a postal carrier. Instead of bringing people their mail, however, Purcell now delivers science about animals and their habitat to aid in their conservation as a research wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Serviceís Pacific Southwest Research Station.

  • A photo of Jose Sanchez standing next to a downed tree.
    José Sánchez, research statistician

    Much of my research has focused on the valuation – or determining a quantifiable value – people place on intangible forest resources (commonly referred to as "ecosystem services"), such as recreating in a forest or having clean water. I also work a lot on understanding the economic impacts wildfire has on natural resources and on residential communities. For example, depending on a wildfire's severity, it could either increase the public's interest in recreating in an area or drive people away from it. Other research has focused on homeowners' willingness to pay for fuel treatment programs to help reduce the risk of wildfire damaging their home.

  • A photo of Jeoy Chong standing high on a snowy mountain.
    Christina Liang, research ecologist

    I was always interested in biology and the sciences, but it wasnít until I got to college at the University of California, Berkeley that I was introduced more to natural resources science. And it wasnít until I spent my junior year abroad in Australia when I really fell in love with the outdoors and became focused on wildlife ecology and environmental sciences.

  • A photo of Jeoy Chong standing high on a snowy mountain.
    Shyh-Chin Chen, research meteorologist

    Iím a research meteorologist here at the Pacific Southwest Research Station. Our purpose is to try and protect peopleís lives and their property. I recently developed a web-based tool called Firebuster that will be able to deliver high-resolution weather information directly to firefighters on site. In Southern California, the firefighters fight in tough, mountainous terrain. Very complicated wind patterns travel through the hills and valleys. Our firefighters need information at a highly detailed scale that isnít available anywhere else.

  • A photo of Jeoy Chong standing high on a snowy mountain.
    Joey Chong, physical science technician

    After receiving his bachelorís degree in biochemistry and a minor in computer science, Joey Chong started looking for jobs. The thought of being confined to a chemistry lab motivated him to pursue a Forest Service career after reading a job description which included outdoor work and travel. That job was for a physical science technician 15 years ago at the Riverside Fire Lab.

  • A photo of Jennifer Jones at a California Academy of Sciences event in San Francisco.
    Jennifer Jones, grants and agreements specialist

    When thinking about research, itís easy to get swept up in the wonder of discovery and the exhilaration of pushing the frontiers of knowledge. But science also has a business side. Researchers need to be paid, equipment needs to be purchased, contracts between cooperating partners need to be drafted and signed.

    Without someone working to make sure these transactions are handled smoothly, it would be difficult for research to happen.

  • A photo of Diane Delany working in the lab.
    Diane Delany, biological technician

    Behind every researcher, thereís usually an assortment of assistants, technicians or collaborators helping to gather, process and analyze data. Their names might not appear in scientific journals, but these helpers play a critical role in advancing scientific knowledge. Diane began her career as a forester at a time when not many women worked in that profession.

  • A photo of Jessica Wright in Yosemite National Park.
    Jessica Wright, research geneticist

    Growing up, Jessica Wright didnít know she wanted to become a research geneticist, studying the growth and survival of trees to better understand what attributes might make them more resilient in a changing forest. She only knew that she liked science and kept herself open to follow where her interests led. From initial plans of becoming a medical doctor to earning an undergraduate degree in flute performance to being part of a study investigating astrobiology, Jessica has had a wide range of interests and experiences, all of which, she says, has helped her become the best geneticist she can be.

  • A photo of Annie Mix in the mountains of Colorado.
    Annie Mix, greenhouse manager and restoration specialist

    When Annie Mix graduated from high school, her dad told her she needed to either go to college or get a job. Annie, who readily admits that school wasnít something she particularly enjoyed, joined the local Young Adult Conservation Corps to work in the outdoors. She parlayed that experience into a science career where sheís been a long-time greenhouse manager.

  • A photo of Susan Cordell standing next to a large koa in the Laupahoehoe Experimental Forest.
    Susan Cordell, research ecologist

    Another day in paradise? Susan Cordell hopes so!

    Susan is a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, based in Hilo, Hawaii. Her research is helping develop strategies to preserve tropical ecosystems from invasive species, which could change the fabled ecology of Hawaii and other islands like it forever.