Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy
Acting Project Leader / Research Forester
459 Nursery Bottom Rd
Phone: 304-478-2000 x114
Contact Melissa Thomas-Van Gundy
- Fire regimes of the central Appalachians
- Central Appalachian silviculture
- Fire as a silvicultural tool
- Historical records as ecological data
- Red spruce recovery and restoration
Melissa's research includes stand- and landscape-level projects at both long- and short-term time scales. Most of this work is focused on the restoration and sustainable management of forested ecosystems in the eastern United States. Successful restoration of an ecological system requires that a series of important questions be addressed: 1) what are the restoration goals, 2) what techniques or actions will meet these goals, and 3) how is success measured. Restoration includes reestablishing patterns, processes, and species often in the context of a given space and time frame. To establish and accomplish ecological restoration goals, land managers need information about historical conditions.
Why This Research is Important
As with any forest management, managers need to know what actions accomplish the goals of restoring patterns and processes and need to be able to predict the results of those actions. To help answer these questions, Melissa's work includes stand-level studies involving prescribed fire, browse control, and a variety of silvicultural practices. Some of these studies are long-term studies started on the Fernow Experimental Forest to answer more traditional growth and yield questions but also can be used to provide information on long-term stand dynamics.
Red spruce-dominated ecosystems are considered critically imperiled in the central and southern Appalachians. These generally high-elevation sites are the focus of restoration efforts by federal, state, and private land managers. These forests are considered to be in recovery from the exploitative harvests of the past, but they are slow to recover and are now subject to current threats from climate change, nonnative invasive insects, large deer populations, and changes in land use. To explore the efficacy of active management for restoration at a landscape-scale, spatial models are used to track forest development under different management scenarios. The resulting modeled forest conditions can be compared to either stated restoration goals or investigated for support of assumptions and goals of management.
To address the lack of knowledge about European settlement-era forests in the central Appalachian region, Melissa has developed a GIS-based dataset of witness trees from the Monongahela National Forest. With this dataset, land managers and researchers can discern the relationships of pre-settlement forest composition with environmental variables, compare past species composition to the present, and provide a model that will guide ecosystem restoration efforts in mixed-oak and high-elevation red spruce forests in the Appalachians. This work has expanded to include witness trees on the Allegheny, Finger Lakes, Green Mountain, and White Mountain National Forests, township-level data for New England, and the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. As more data are uncovered or made digital, this work may be expanded further into Ohio and Virginia.
As a research forester assigned to NRS-01, Melissa is involved in on-going, long-term silvicultural and forest management research. This long-term research involves developing silvicultural systems for sustaining forest products, wildlife benefits, species diversity, and for restoring forest ecosystems. This research specifically relates to forest management, in particular studying the many silvicultural tools available to sustainably manage forests for a variety of outcomes. Such guidelines and models are sought after by federal, state, and private land managers. Current studies include artificial regeneration; precommercial thinning; crop-tree release; prescribed fire; herbicide use; and even-aged, two-age, and uneven-aged management.
- 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
- Society of American Foresters, West Virginia Chapter (2011 - Current)
Featured Publications & Products
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Perkins, Jessica D.; Krause, Crystal ; Huebner, Cynthia D.; Ferrari, Lorenzo ; Smith, Linda S. 2021. Primeval Paths: Bison in West Virginia.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa ; Morin, Randall . 2020. Change in Montane Forests of East-central West Virginia over 250 years.
- Brown, John P.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Schuler, Thomas M.; Wiedenbeck, Janice K. 2018. Silvicultural Prescriptions Influence the Proportion of High-Quality Hardwood Butt Logs Harvested over a Half-Century of Management.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Nowacki, Gregory J.; Anderson, Roger C.; Bowles, Marlin L.; Brugam, Richard B.; Pavlovic, Noel B.; Halsey, Samniqueka , J..; McBride, Jenny . 2020. Visualizing the Ecological Importance of pre-Euro-American Settlement Fire across Three Midwestern Landscapes.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Nowacki, Gregory J. 2013. The use of witness trees as pyro-indicators for mapping past fire conditions.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Strager, Michael P. 2012. European settlement-era vegetation of the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia.
- Schuler, Thomas M.; Thomas Van-Gundy, Melissa; Adams, Mary B.; Ford, W. Mark. 2010. Seed bank response to prescribed fire in the central Appalachians..
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa. 2010. Red spruce restoration modeling in LANDIS.
- Hahn, George E.; Coates, T. Adam; Aust, W. Michael; Copenheaver, Carolyn A.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A. 2020. Eight years later, did a wildfire in southwestern Virginia accomplish first-entry prescribed fire tree regeneration objectives.
- Thompson, Emma Georgia; Coates, Thomas Adam; Aust, Wallace Michael; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A. 2019. Wildfire and Prescribed Fire Effects on Forest Floor Properties and Erosion Potential in the Central Appalachian Region, USA.
- Hahn, George E.; Coates, T. Adam; Aust, W. Michael; Bolding, M. Chad; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A. 2021. Long-term impacts of silvicultural treatments on wildland fuels and modeled fire behavior in the Ridge and Valley Province, Virginia (USA).
- Ford, W. Mark; Johnson, Joshua B.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa . 2021. Northern Long-Eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis) Day-Roost Loss in the Central Appalachian Mountains following Prescribed Burning.
- Clark, Stacy L.; Schlarbaum, Scott E.; Crane, Barbara S.; Pinchot, Cornelia C.; Schaberg, Paul G.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa . 2020. Restoration of the American chestnut will require more than a blight-resistant tree.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A. 2019. Inferring fire regimes from data you may already have: assessing landfire fire regime maps using local products.
- Lorber, Jean ; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa ; Croy, Steve . 2018. Characterizing effects of prescribed fire on forest canopy cover in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Schuler, Thomas M.; Adams, M. Beth. 2018. Early impacts of fire and canopy gaps on seedling and sapling layers: evidence for reversing mesophication In: Kirschman, Julia E., comp.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Edwards, Pamela J.; Schuler, Thomas M. 2018. Establishment of native species on a natural gas pipeline: the importance of seeding rate, aspect, and species selection.
- Butler-Leopold, Patricia R.; Iverson, Louis R.; Thompson, Frank R.; Brandt, Leslie A.; Handler, Stephen D.; Janowiak, Maria K.; Shannon, P. Danielle; Swanston, Christopher W.; Bearer, Scott ; Bryan, Alexander M.; Clark, Kenneth L.; Czarnecki, Greg ; DeSenze, Philip ; Dijak, William D.; Fraser, Jacob S.; Gugger, Paul F.; Hille, Andrea ; Hynicka, Justin ; Jantz, Claire A.; Kelly, Matthew C.; Krause, Katrina M.; La Puma, Inga Parker; Landau, Deborah ; Lathrop, Richard G.; Leites, Laura P.; Madlinger, Evan ; Matthews, Stephen N.; Ozbay, Gulnihal ; Peters, Matthew P.; Prasad, Anantha ; Schmit, David A.; Shephard, Collin ; Shirer, Rebecca ; Skowronski, Nicholas S.; Steele, Al ; Stout, Susan ; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa ; Thompson, John ; Turcotte, Richard M.; Weinstein, David A.; Yáñez, Alfonso . 2018. Mid-Atlantic forest ecosystem vulnerability assessment and synthesis: a report from the Mid-Atlantic Climate Change Response Framework project.
- Brown, John P.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Schuler, Thomas M. 2018. Overstory cohort survival in an Appalachian hardwood deferment cutting: 35-year results.
- Brown, John P.; Wiedenbeck, Janice K.; Schuler, Thomas M.; Thomas- Van Gundy, Melissa A. 2018. Patterns of overstory mortality in a shelterwood- burn central Appalachian forest.
- Schuler, Thomas M.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Brown, John P.; Wiedenbeck, Jan. 2017. Managing Appalachian hardwood stands using four management practices: 60-year results.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Bard, Jane; Kochenderfer, Jeff; Berrang, Paul. 2017. Mortality, early growth, and blight occurrence in hybrid, Chinese, and American chestnut seedlings in West Virginia.
- Wiedenbeck, Janice K.; Brown, John P.; Schuler, Thomas M.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa. 2017. Tree-quality impacts associated with use of the shelterwood-fire technique in a central Appalachian forest.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Nowacki, Gregory J. 2016. Landscape-fire relationships inferred from bearing trees in Minnesota.
- Strager, Michael P.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Maxwell, Aaron E. 2016. Predicting post-fire change in West Virginia, USA from remotely-sensed data.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Whetsell, Robert. 2016. Realistic restoration targets.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Whetsell, Robert. 2016. West Virginia's big trees: setting the record straight.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Wood, Katharina U.; Rentch, James S. 2015. Impacts of wildfire recency and frequency on an Appalachian oak forest.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Nowacki, Gregory J.; Cogbill, Charles V. 2015. Mapping pyrophilic percentages across the northeastern United States using witness trees, with focus on four national forests.
- Fenwick, Adele; Schuler, Jamie L.; Grushecky, Shawn; Schuler, Thomas M.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa. 2014. Kanawha State Forest, WV: Wildland fire fuel load assessment and geospatial distribution.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A. 2014. Mapping fire regimes from data you may already have: assessing LANDFIRE fire regime maps using local products.
- Clark, Stacy L.; Schlarbaum, Scott E.; Pinchot, Cornelia C.; Anagnostakis, Sandra L.; Saunders, Michael R.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Schaberg, Paul; McKenna, James; Bard, Jane F.; Berrang, Paul C.; Casey, David M.; Casey, Chris E.; Crane, Barbara; Jackson, Brian D.; Kochenderfer, Jeff D.; MacFarlane, Russ; Makowske, Robert; Miller, Mark D.; Rodrigue, Jason A.; Stelick, Jim; Thornton, Christopher D.; Williamson, Tyler S. 2014. Reintroduction of American Chestnut in the National Forest System.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Rentch, James; Adams, Mary Beth; Carson, Walter. 2014. Reversing legacy effects in the understory of an oak-dominated forest.
- Jensen, N.K.; Holzmueller, E.J.; Edwards, P.J.; Thomas-Van Gundy, M.; DeWalle, D.R.; Williard, K.W.J. 2014. Tree response to experimental watershed acidification.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Sturtevant, Brian R. 2014. Using scenario modeling for red spruce restoration planning in West Virginia.
- Schuler, Thomas M.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Adams, Mary Beth; Ford, W. Mark. 2013. Analysis of two pre-shelterwood prescribed fires in a mesic mixed-oak forest in West Virginia.
- Adams, Mary Beth; Edwards, Pamela J.; Ford, W. Mark; Schuler, Thomas M.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Wood, Frederica. 2012. Fernow Experimental Forest: Research History and Opportunities.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Strager, Michael; Rentch, James. 2012. Site characteristics of red spruce witness tree locations in the uplands of West Virginia, USA.
- Adams, Mary Beth; Edwards, Pamela J.; Ford, W. Mark; Johnson, Joshua B.; Schuler, Thomas M.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Wood, Frederica. 2011. Effects of development of a natural gas well and associated pipeline on the natural and scientific resources of the Fernow Experimental Forest.
- Adams, Mary Beth; Ford, W. Mark; Schuler, Thomas M.; Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa. 2011. Effects of natural gas development on forest ecosystems.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Strager, Michael. 2011. Site characteristics of American chestnut, oak, and hickory witness trees on the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa. 2010. Red spruce as witness tree on the Monongahela National Forest.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Schuler, Thomas M. 2008. Deferred rotation harvests in central Appalachia: 20- and 25-year results.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa A.; Nowacki, Gregory J.; Schuler, Thomas M. 2007. Rule-based mapping of fire-adapted vegetation and fire regimes for the Monongahela National Forest.
- Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa. 2006. Assigning fire regimes on the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia.
Citations of non US Forest Service Publications
|A Landscape Model for Planning Red Spruce Restoration in West Virginia|
A Forest Service scientist developed a model to answer specific questions about meeting restoration goals for red spruce while protecting habita ...
|Collaboration makes fire science available and useful to land managers|
Forest Service researchers and foresters are partnering to document the effects of landscape-scale prescribed fire on the George Washington and ...
|Forest management demonstration area highlights working forest|
New research published in 2017 describes the results of a 60-year forest management demonstration area on the Fernow Experimental Forest and the ...
|Investigating the 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. This has resulte ...
|Restoration of a Forest Giant|
The blight resistance of a variety of families of hybrid American chestnuts is under study on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. ...
|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 ...
|Witness Trees as Indicators of Past Fire|
In ecosystem restoration, the question “What was the forest like back then?” is often difficult to answer. Understanding and mapping forest ...
|“Witness Trees” as Indicators of Past Fire|
In ecosystem restoration, the question of “What was it like back then?” is often difficult to answer. Understanding and mapping forest compo ...