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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Supervisory Research Biologist

Elaine K. Sutherland

Research Biologist & Scientist-in-Charge, Coram Experimental Forest
Forestry Sciences Laboratory
800 East Beckwith Avenue
United States

Phone: 406-542-4169
Fax: 406-543-2663
Contact Elaine K. Sutherland

Current Research

1) We have little detailed knowledge about fire regimes of mid- higher elevation forests in the northern Rockies, and I am performing fire scar and tree demographic analysis across multiple climate zones in Western Montana in mid- high-elevation forests. 2) Fire-climate outlooks ( Seasonal - > 1 year) can be used by fire managers for longterm resource planning. I am co-PI of a team evaluating past large-scale climate/fire relationships across western North America 3) I am leading several new analytical approaches to fire history data and tool development for performing them 4) I am continuing work from my previous assignment in Ohio on fire regimes and prescribed burning treatments in oak forests.

Research Interests

My research interests include using tree-ring analysis and other research tools to understand disturbance processes (particularly fire) and landscape pattern, and relationships to climate; using tree-ring analysis to understand how physical injuries from events like fire affects wood and scar formation processes. My professional interests extend to synthesizing existing scientific information for scientists and managers and studying the relationship between disturbance and forest community dynamics, and application of prescribed burn.

Past Research

This research is particularly useful for land and fire managers at all levels (for example, Districts, Forests, Regions) when they are developing plans. They are required to demonstrate understanding about how forests and other vegetation types developed the way they did, and what management approaches would be useful in making the plan successful. Disturbance, especially fire, is an important process in most forests; the results from my work shows how fire varies at broad spatial and temporal scales in higher-elevation forests. My work is also used by other scientists, to understand fire regimes in these forest types and in applying the methods I develop in analyzing fire history data.

Why This Research is Important

1) The focus of my early work was how fire suppression (and other historical factors), and then prescribed burning (and indirect effects), affected the growth of ponderosa pines in northern Arizona. 2) This was good preparation for my postdoctoral work in Utah, where I investigated the effects of historical sulphur dioxide smelting on Douglas-fir ecophysiology and growth. 3) In my first assignment for Forest Service Research in Ohio, I investigated the history of fire in oak forests (previously considered asbestos forests), and initiated experiments applying prescribed burning to regenerate oak forests; this work influenced how Region 9 now manages oak forests. 4) I moved to western Montana and began my current research (and research administration), but also led a team synthesizing information about the environmental consequences of fuel treatments on ponderosa pine (US westwide).


  • University of Arizona, Tucson, Ph.D. Department of Watershed Management, and Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research 1989
  • University of Arizona, Tucson, M.S. Department of Geosciences, and Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research 1983
  • University of Virginia, Charlottesville, B.A. Department of Environmental Sciences 1978
  • Sussex University, Visiting Student Physical Geography 1976

Professional Experience

  • Scientist-in-Charge, Coram Experimental Forest, US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
    2007 - Current
  • Supervisory Research Biologist, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, Forest and Woodland Ecosystems Program, Missoula
    2007 - Current
  • Affiliate Faculty, College of Forestry and Conservation & the Division of Biology, University of Montana, Missoula
    1999 - Current
  • Scientist-in-Charge, Tenderfoot Experimental Forest, US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
    2007 - 2010
  • Project Leader & Research Biologist, USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, Ecology and Management of Northern Rocky Mountain Forests, Missoula
    1999 - 2006
  • Adjunct Faculty, Department of Evolution, Ecology, & Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus.
    1994 - 2001
  • Research Ecologist, USFS Northeastern Research Station, Quantitative Methods for Modeling Response of Northeastern Forest Ecosystems to Management and Enironmental Stresses, Delaware, Ohio
    1992 - 1999
  • Senior Research Scientist, Native Plants Inc., Salt Lake City, UT
    1989 - 1991
  • Post-Doctoral Scientist, Native Plants Inc., Salt Lake City, UT
    1987 - 1989
  • Visiting Scientist, Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
    1984 - 1987
  • Graduate Research Assistant (except 1981-1982), Laboratory of Tree Ring Research, University of Arizona, Tucson
    1979 - 1984
    Drs. Harold C. Fritts, Marvin Stokes, Steve Leavitt
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, Cell Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson
    1981 - 1982
  • Research Assistant, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
    1978 - 1979
    Dr. Roger Pielke
  • Undergraduate Research Assistant, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
    1976 - 1978
    Dr. Robert L. Ellison

Professional Organizations

  • Association for Tree-Ring Analysis, Member (2015 - Current)
  • International Association of Wildland Fire, Member (2015 - Current)
  • Tree-Ring Society, President (2012 - Current)
  • Association for Fire Ecology, Member (2008 - Current)
  • International Multi-Proxy Paleofire Database Advisory Board, Member (2008 - Current)
  • Society of American Foresters (SAF), Member (1983 - 1990)

Awards & Recognition

  • Service and Teaching , 2006
    from Dr. James Speer, Director of the North American DendroEcological Fieldweek, “in appreciation for your 6th year as a Group Leader for North American DendroEcological Fieldweek,”
  • Certificate of Merit, 2005
    “For your extra effort in leading the Environmental Consequences Team for the Fuels Synthesis Project”
  • Certificate of Merit, 2003
    “For outstanding civil rights efforts through your involvement in community and educational events during FY 2003” from the RMRS Civil Rights Committee. "
  • Certificate of Appreciation, 2001
    In appreciation for your extra effort as Director’s Representative during an especially busy year of program growth and transition” from Director’s Representative/ALWRI Director David Parsons
  • Certificate of Merit, 1996
    “For outstanding efforts in organizing the Restoration of Mixed-Oak Forests with Prescribed Fire Ecosystem Management Project” from supervisor Charles T. Scott.

Featured Publications & Products


Citations of non US Forest Service Publications

  • Kennedy, E.A. 1978. Some palaeoenvironmental indicators from the foraminiferal assemblage in the Slindon Sands. Brighton Geographical Society 4: 14-18.

    Kennedy, E.A. and J.A. Gordon. 1980. Characteristics of nineteenth century climate data used in the verification of dendroclimatic reconstructions. Technical Note No. 16. Northern Hemisphere Climatic Reconstruction Group, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona: Tucson, Arizona. 11 p. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2295.9848

    Sutherland, E.K. 1983a. The effects of fire exclusion on growth in mature ponderosa pine in northern Arizona. Master of Sciences Pre-submission manuscript, Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona. 20 pp. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.5109.9364

    Sutherland, E.K. 1983. Application of dendrochronology to resource inventory   In: Renewable resource inventories for monitoring changes and trends: Proceedings of an international conference, 1983, Corvallis, OR. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4679.8562 College of Forestry, Oregon State University: Corvallis, OR. pp 464-467

    Swetnam, T.W., E.K. Sutherland and M.A. Thompson. 1983. Comment on dating forest disturbances. Quaternary Research 19: 400-401.

  • Sutherland, E.K. and W.W. Covington. 1987. Factors affecting the growth response of Pinus ponderosa L. to prescribed burning. J.W. Hornbeck and G. Jacoby eds.   In: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Ecological Aspects of Tree-Ring Analysis, Tarrytown, NY. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2078.8967 U.S. Department of Energy. pp 432-442.   (Accessed 24 August 2015)

  • Treshow, M., E.K. Sutherland. and J.P. Bennett. 1987. Tolerance and susceptibility to air pollution: A new direction in sampling strategy. J.W. Hornbeck and G. Jacoby eds.   In: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Ecological Aspects of Tree-Ring Analysis, Tarrytown, NY. U.S. Department of Energy. pp 392-400.   (Accessed 24 August 2015)

  • Sutherland, E.K. 1989a. The natural and unnatural fire history of southwestern ponderosa pine. Women in Natural Resources 11(1): 12-16.

  • Sutherland, E.K. 1989b. The effect of prescribed burning on southwestern ponderosa pine growth. PhD Dissertation, Renewable Natural Resources; Graduate College, The University of Arizona. 116 pp.

  • Martin, B. and E.K. Sutherland. 1990. Air pollution in the past recorded in width and stable carbon isotope composition of annual growth rings of Douglas-fir. Plant, Cell and Environment 13(8): 839-844.  

    Sutherland, E.K. and B. Martin. 1990. Growth response of Pseudotsuga menziesii to air pollution from copper smelting. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 20: 1020-1029.

  • Sutherland, E.K., W.W. Covington and S. Andariese. 1991. A model of ponderosa pine growth response to prescribed burning. Forest Ecology and Management 44(2–4): 161-173.

  • Sutherland, E.K. and B. Martin. 1992. Stable carbon isotopes can reveal the cause of tree growth variation during periods of high air pollutant concentration. T.S. Bartholin, B.E. Berglund, D. Eckstein and F.H. Schweingruber eds.   In: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Tree Rings and Environment, 3-9 September 1990, Ystad, Sweden. LUNDQUA Report 34 University of Lund: Lund, Sweden. pp 313-323.

Research Highlights


Potential Fire Behavior Depends on Cutting Pattern in a Montana Lodgepole Pine Forest

Forest Service researchers tested silvicultural treatments that can minimize the probability of severe wildfires and create resilient forests. T ...


Scars Link Fire History to Tree Survival

Fire scars contain dynamic changes in wood anatomy of three important western conifers. These changes reveal strategies for tree survival and ma ...


The Making of a Scar: How Fire Scars Develop in Trees

When trees are injured they develop physical and chemical boundaries around the injury wound to resist infection. Trees also grow new wood to cl ...


Last updated on : 04/08/2021