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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Research Topics

Priority Areas

  • Forest Disturbances
  • Forest Inventory and Analysis

Karen Schleeweis

507-25th Street
United States

Phone: 302-981-9622
Contact Karen Schleeweis

Current Research

I am an Ecologist in the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Unit of the Rocky Mountain Research Station. My current work focuses on developing and applying geospatial technical methods to guide natural resources-related land management decisions:

  • Support LANDFIRE forest structure and vegetation mapping with FIA data.
  • Characterize disturbance regimes and forest disturbances for the USFS Resource Planning Act (RPA) Assessment.
  • Use spatial patterns and metrics to give context to forest plots, pixels and trends.  
  • Characterize the implications and impacts of data quality and quantity, from FIA and imaged data, on forest structure mapping across enivornmental gradients and for multiple applications.

Research Interests

A geographer at heart, I get excited about the relevance of spatial relationships and landscape heterogeniety in natural resource applications.  Research interests include cartography, visualization, biogeography, spatial pattern analysis, scaling, forest disturbance regimes, and domain breaks of drivers and constraints of forest dynamics.  I have been lucky to collaborate with teams that integrate geospatial techniques, using FIA plot data, image time-series, geostatistics, GIS and large volume data computing, to characterize forest trends as they relate to questions of natural resource monitoring and management. 

I currently serve as the FIA liason for LANDFIRE, a USFS USDA and USGS joint program, that produces over 28+ National geospatial layers for wildfire decision support. 

I currently serve as the FIA science team lead for the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) tree canopy cover product. The Forest Service is a member of the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC) and is responsible for producing the tree canopy dataset for the United States using Landsat imagery and maintaining the consortium's product cycle.


Past Research

International outreach  -  I have periodically served temporary assignments with USFS International Programs. Through these assignments, I have co-led workships on remote sensing and land cover mapping, advanced GIS techniques, and landscape patterns analyses with forest cover maps and conducted a land use change assessment, on the border lands between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. 

Forest Disturbance Attribution Mapping - In this work, as a research post-doc for RMRS FIA, we leveraged the strengths of multiple change detection algorithms in an ensemble Random Forest model to map areas of stable forest and areas experiencing persisting forest cover loss (e.g. conversion of forest to other land uses) and temporary forest cover loss from abrupt changes (fire, harvest, wind) or long gradual declines (stress from insects and disease) across the CONUS between 1986 and 2010. - Schleeweis, K.; Moisen, G.G.; Schroeder, T.A.; Toney, J.C.; Freeman, E.A.; Goward, S.N.; Huang, C.; Dungan, J.L.. US National Maps Attributing Forest Change: 1986-2010. Forests (2019).

Validation of Annual Time Series Maps - I worked with PNW-FIA and University of Maryland collaborators to lead the validation analysis to report on the statistical accuracy and consistency of NAFD annual forest history maps for the contiguous US (1986-2010). - Zhao, F.; Huang, C.; Goward, S.N.; Schleeweis, K.; Rishmawi, K.; Lindsey, M.A.; Denning, E.; Keddell, L.; Cohen, W.B.; Yang, Z., et al. Development of Landsat-based annual US forest disturbance history maps (1986–2010) in support of the North American Carbon Program (NACP). Remote Sensing of Environment 2018209, 312-326, doi:

Large Volume Raster Data Manipulation -  Working as a Faculty Research Assistant on the North American Forest Dynamics (NAFD) project, a collaborative project between USFS FIA, NASA, and several Universities, I helped design, implement and execute, the workflow for image QA, selecting and processing 25 years of Landsat (L5-L7, input of 80,000+ images) using the supercomputing facilities at the NASA Ames Research Center, to ultimately support time-series forest disturbance mapping. - Schleeweis, K.; Goward, S.N.; Huang, C.; Dwyer, J.L.; Dungan, J.L.; Lindsey, M.A.; Michaelis, A.; Rishmawi, K.; Masek, J.G. Selection and quality assessment of Landsat data for the North American forest dynamics forest history maps of the US. International Journal of Digital Earth 2016, 1-18, doi:17538947.2016.1158876.

Characterizing Forest Disturbance Processes across the US. -  As a postdoc candidate with Dr. Samuel Goward I developed an integrated geodatabase from tabular and geospatial datasets on forest disturbance and conversion events across the CONUS and conducted analyses on their spatial and temporal overlap at local, regional and national scales. - Schleeweis, Karen; Goward, Samuel N.; Huang, Chengquan; Masek, Jeffrey G.; Moisen, Gretchen; Kennedy, Robert E.; Thomas, Nancy E. 2013. Regional dynamics of forest canopy change and underlying causal processes in the contiguous US. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 118(3): 1035-1053.

Why This Research is Important

In order for Forest Inventory and Analysis to remain effective, continue to improve, and advance forest inventory science, we need to refine existing and develop new techniques. We also need to communicate to the outside world the most recent information on the status of and trends in our forests in an interesting and meaningful way. Working on techniques development and technology transfer methods advances these goals and can benefit the broader forest science community.

The FIA program fills critical forest information needs for a variety of customers in state government, the timber industry, environmental organizations, and many more. As a neutral provider of data, FIA seeks to constantly improve the inventory efficiency and utility in order to maximize the return on taxpayer dollars. Integrating geospatial and remote sensing technologies into inventory processes aids in achieving this objective.


  • University of Maryland, College Park, Ph.D. Geography Remote Sensing and GIS for Natural Resource Applications 2012
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Bachelor Of Science Geography 2006

Professional Organizations

  • International Association for Landscape Ecology

Featured Publications & Products


Citations of non US Forest Service Publications

  • Tao, X.; Huang, C.; Zhao, F.; Schleeweis, K.; Masek, J.; Liang, S. Mapping forest disturbance intensity in North and South Carolina using annual Landsat observations and field inventory data. Remote Sensing of Environment 2019, 221, 351-362.

    Zhao, F.; Huang, C.; Goward, S.N.; Schleeweis, K.; Rishmawi, K.; Lindsey, M.A.; Denning, E.; Keddell, L.; Cohen, W.B.; Yang, Z., et al. Development of Landsat-based annual US forest disturbance history maps (1986–2010) in support of the North American Carbon Program (NACP). Remote Sensing of Environment 2018, 209, 312-326, doi:

    Huang, C.; Goward, S.N.; Schleeweis, K.; Thomas, N.; Masek, J.G.; Zhu, Z.L. Dynamics of national forests assessed using the Landsat record: Case studies in eastern United States. Remote Sensing of Environment 2009, 113, 1430-1442.

    Thomas, N.E.; Huang, C.; Goward, S.N.; Powell, S.; Rishmawi, K.; Schleeweis, K.; Hinds, A. Validation of North American forest disturbance dynamics derived from Landsat time series stacks. Remote Sensing of Environment 2011, 115, 19-32, doi:10.1016/j.rse.2010.07.009.

    Huang, C.; Schleeweis, K.; Thomas, N.; N, G.S. Forest dynamics within and around the Olympic National Park assessed using time series Landsat observations. In Remote Sensing of Protected Lands, Wang, Y., Ed. Taylor & Francis: London, 2011; pp. 75-94.


  • Masek, J.G.; Goward, S.N.; Kennedy, R.E.; Cohen, W.B.; Moisen, G.G.; Schleeweis, K.; Huang, C. United States Forest Disturbance Trends Observed Using Landsat Time Series. Ecosystems 2013, 1-18.

    Huang, C.; Goward, S.N.; Masek, J.G.; Gao, F.; Vermote, E.F.; Thomas, N.; Schleeweis, K.; Kennedy, R.E.; Zhu, Z.; Eidenshink, J.C., et al. Development of time series stacks of Landsat images for reconstructing forest disturbance history. International Journal of Digital Earth 2009, 195-218.

    Goward, S.N., C. Huang, F. Zhao, K. Schleeweis, K. Rishmawi, M. Lindsey, J.L. Dungan, and A. Michaelis. 2015. NACP NAFD Project: Forest Disturbance History from Landsat, 1986-2010. ORNL DAAC, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA.

Research Highlights


Mapping Causes of Disturbance in U.S. Forests

A collaborative project between the USFS Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA), NASA, and several universities developed a national datase ...


ModelMap Predicts Forest Characteristics Over Any Geographic Extent

Forest Service scientists created a tool, ModelMap, that can combine the Forest Inventory and Analysis plot data with remote sensing satellite i ...


Last updated on : 05/21/2021