US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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IPCC Work in Zimbabwe

Randy Kolka

Acting Project Leader / Research Soil Scientist
1831 Hwy 169 East
Grand Rapids
United States

Phone: 218-326-7115
Fax: 218-326-7123
Contact Randy Kolka

Curriculum vitae (841 KB PDF)

Current Research

I study the effect of land management (forest, agriculture and urban land uses) on the terrestrial and aquatic cycling of nutrients, carbon, heavy metals (notably mercury) and water.

Currently I'm working on numerous studies to assess nutrient, carbon and mercury pools and processes in variety of ecosystems. Nutrient work includes studies related to Forestry Best Management Practices in riparian and wetland systems and work aimed at understanding the influence of strategically placed perennial vegetation in agricultural watersheds. Nutrient work also includes the effect of stream restoration on nutrient cycling. My carbon work includes studies looking at landscape level carbon pools and emissions across number of ecosystems including peatlands, and a variety upland vegetation types. The ecosystem carbon work also extends into characterizing the pools of coarse woody debris in forested riparian areas and streams. My mercury work is focused on two main efforts, one to characterize the mercury cycle under increased sulfate deposition and a second to understand the influence of prescribed fire on mercury cycling.

Why This Research is Important

The transport on nonpoint source pollutants including nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are the number one concern regarding the impacts on aquatic ecosystems. This is demonstrated by the numerous issues surrounding the development of Best Management Practices for forest and agricultural systems and regulations that are being imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (e.g. Total Maximum Daily Loads).

In the Lake States, mercury is of high concern because of its potential to bioaccumulate in the aquatic food chain. Understanding how management can lessen mercury inputs and/or increase storage in terrestrial systems is critical for human health and the fishing industry.

Investigating the landscape level influences on carbon storage and processing will lead to a better understanding of implications of climate change. One of the great uncertainties in climate modeling is the feedbacks that terrestrial systems have on atmospheric carbon, most notably on the green house gases carbon dioxide and methane. Our work is helping fill this important knowledge gap.


  • University of Minnesota, Ph.D. Soil Science 1996
  • University of Minnesota, M.S. Soil Science 1993
  • University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, B.S. Soil Science 1990

Professional Experience

  • Faculty of Graduate Studies, Faculty of Natural Resources Management, Lakehead University
    2012 - Current
  • Faculty of Graduate Studies, Faculty of Natural Resources Management, Lakehead University
    2012 - Current
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, North Dakota State University
    2008 - Current
  • Associate Faculty, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa State University
    2004 - Current
  • Adjunct Faculty, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Michigan Technological University
    2004 - Current
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota
    2002 - Current
  • Graduate Faculty, Department of Forestry, University of Kentucky
    2002 - Current
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Soil, Water and Climate, University of Minnesota
    2002 - Current

Professional Organizations

  • Soil Science Society of America
  • Society of Wetland Scientists
  • American Water Resources Association
  • Society of American Foresters (SAF)
  • Ecology and Biology Subject Area, Editorial Positions
  • Society of American Foresters, Forest Science and Technology Board, Editorial Positions (2006 - Present)
  • Wetlands, Associate Editor (2006 - Present)
  • Ecosystems Restoration and Creation, Annual Conference Editorial Review Committee, Associate Editor (1997 - Present)

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


Incorporating ecosystem services into Midwest agriculture

Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips (STRIPS) is transforming the way farmers conduct agriculture in the Midwest. STR ...


Largest Climate Change Experiment on the Planet: SPRUCE

The Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change Experiment (SPRUCE) is stretching scientists’ ability to manipulate ...


Prairie Strips Lead to Better Environmental Health and Greater Socioeconomic Vitality

Forest Service scientists help Midwestern farming communities understand how to transform strategic portions of the agricultural landscape into ...


Scaling Up Ecosystem Impacts of the Pagami Creek Fire in Northern Minnesota

Quantifying fire severity is critical to understanding the ecosystem impacts of wildfire. Forest Service research demonstrates the magnitude of ...


Sustainable Northern Conifer Forest Management Stores More Carbon than Exploitative Harvesting

An important part of climate change mitigation is carbon storage in forests and wood products. Yet managers are often uncertain about which mana ...


Warming Peatlands Emit Carbon Faster than Previously Known

Peatlands occupy just 3 %of the planet but store about 30 %of the soil carbon in terrestrial landscapes. A team of scientists is exploring wheth ...


“Smart Forests” Digital Environmental Sensors and Telecommunications Take Research to New Levels

Scientific breakthroughs of the 21st century will be powered by tools that help researchers collect and manipulate massive datasets, visualize t ...


Last updated on : 09/13/2021