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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Sara A. Goeking

Biological Scientist
507 25th Street
United States

Phone: 801-625-5193
Contact Sara A. Goeking

Current Research

My work seeks to develop more spatially explicit analyses and novel applications of FIA data that will enhance our understanding of forest dynamics such as mortality, disturbance, and land use/land cover change. Current research projects include:

  • Linking forest dynamics with water resources - As a doctoral student working with David Tarboton at Utah State University, I am using ground-based FIA data to study the effects of forest disturbance on ecohydrologic processes, water supply, and water availability for forest ecosystems. This research also seeks to evaluate the effects of future forest management on water supply, both for people and for forests.
  • Whitebark pine regeneration and distribution - This project capitalizes on the spatial and temporal representativeness of the FIA dataset, which indicates that the distribution of whitebark pines is far more widespread among mixed-composition stands – particularly the lodgepole pine forest type – than in pure whitebark pine stands.
  • Riparian forests - Another study is a collaboration with multiple stakeholders to develop recommendations for restoration of riparian forests in Utah. A second riparian-related investigation seeks to develop techniques for inventory & monitoring of riparian forests and nonforest lands across broad scales.
  • International outreach and tech transfer - In addition to my ongoing work with FIA data, I periodically serve temporary assignments with USFS International Programs. I provide technical assistance to other countries in the areas of data quality assurance (quality assessment and quality control, or QA/QC), definition of forest monitoring objectives, field data collection, and analysis/reporting.
  • Research Interests

    I am interested in anything geospatial, because nearly all ecological and hydrological processes vary spatially across the landscape. I seek to apply modelling and remote sensing approaches that can expand our forest inventory data beyond forest land to areas such as rangeland and riparian areas in the semi-arid Interior West. Spatially explicit forest monitoring data can also provide a more realistic representation of land cover for evaluating the effects of forest dynamics and forest management on water resources.

    Past Research

    My previous research projects included the following:

    • Comparison of historical vs. current forest conditions - To understand how forests have changed over the recent decades and continue to change, I developed methods for comparing historical (periodic) versus current (annual) forest inventories, with a focus on differences among various forest types and land management groups.
    • Fire effects - Several FIA analysts are collaborating to quantify the effects of fire on basal area among various forest types.
    • Field data collection - I was fortunate to serve as an FIA field crew leader when I first came to the Forest Service. My work with the RMRS-FIA Data Collection Team also involved streamlining and expanding the scope of FIA Pre-field workflows so that we now collect basic land use, land cover, and tree canopy cover data on all FIA plots.
    • Riparian vegetation and sandbar monitoring - Prior to joining FIA, most of my work focused on spatial analysis of riparian vegetation and sandbar storage in the Colorado River basin, and analysis of multi-temporal surveys and historical air photos to quantify past and current responses to hydroelectric flow regulation in a historical context.

    Why This Research is Important

    Forest managers, stakeholders, and the general public rely on good science to provide high-quality data on the condition and trends in forests across all lands, and FIA provides that information. The spatial and temporal intensity of FIA's plots allow us to provide forest information that is statistically robust and representative at the landscape level. A tremendous strength of the FIA dataset is the size and spatial representativeness of the sample, with about 35,000 forested plots in the Interior West states. As an FIA analyst, I strive to continually develop innovative analyses that are useful to land managers and other scientists. FIA functions as the nation's forest census by collecting mountains of data, and FIA analysts need to paint those mountains of data as an information landscape that can be easily seen and interpreted by our customers.


    • Utah State University, Phd Candidate Watershed Sciences 2017
    • Utah State University, M.S. Forest Ecology 2003
    • Utah State University, B.S. Environmental Studies and Plant Science 1996

    Professional Organizations

    • Society for Conservation GIS, Member (2015 - Current)
    • Society of American Foresters (SAF), Member (2010 - Current)

    Featured Publications & Products


    Citations of non US Forest Service Publications

    • Schmidt, J.C., Topping, D.J., Rubin, D.M., Hazel, J.E., Jr., Kaplinski, M., Wiele, S.M., and Goeking, S.A., 2007. Streamflow and sediment data collected to determine the effects of low summer steady flows and habitat maintenance flows in 2000 on the Colorado River between Lees Ferry and Bright Angel Creek, Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2007-1268, 79 p. []
    • Grams, P.E., J.C. Schmidt, D.J. Topping, and S.A. Goeking, S., 2004. The degraded reach: rate and pattern of bed and bank adjustment of the Colorado River in the 25 km immediately downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. Technical report to the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, 111 p.

    • Goeking, S.A., 2003. Long-term dynamics of riparian vegetation, and their relation to hydrology and geomorphology, along the Green River in the Uintah Basin. Master’s Thesis, Utah State University, Logan.

    • Goeking, S.A., J.C. Schmidt, and M.K. Webb, 2003. Spatial and temporal trends in the size and number of backwaters between 1935 and 2000, Marble and Grand Canyons, Arizona. Technical report to USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, 15 p.

    • Schmidt, J. C., S.A. Goeking, D.J. Topping, D. Rubin, B. Lockwood, J.E. Hazel, M. Kaplinski, S. Wiele, and M. Franseen, 2003. Stream flow and sediment data collected to determine the effects of low summer steady flows and habitat maintenance flows in 2000 on the Colorado River between Lees Ferry and Bright Angel Creek, Arizona. Technical report to the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, 54 p.

    • Schmidt, J.C., D.J. Topping, S.A. Goeking, H. Sondossi, J.E. Hazel, and P.E. Grams, 2002. System-wide changes in the distribution of fine-grained alluvium in the Colorado River corridor between Lees Ferry and Bright Angel Creek, Arizona, 1980s to 2001. Technical report to the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, 86 p.

    • Birchell, G.J., K. Christopherson, C. Crosby, T.A. Crowl, J. Gourley, M. Townsend, S. Goeking, T. Modde, M. Fuller, and P. Nelson, 2002. The levee removal project: assessment of floodplain habitat restoration in the middle Green River. Final report. Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program Project CAP-6-LR. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City. 257 pages + appendices.

    Research Highlights


    Annual Inventory of New Mexico's Forests More Accurate Thanks to Stratification Key

    The Forest Inventory and Analysis Program must provide unbiased estimates of forest area. An accurate baseline of New Mexico's forests and futu ...


    Comprehensive Inventory of Forest Health Trends in New Mexico

    The public, forest managers, and scientists now have the most comprehensive inventory of forest health trends in New Mexico's history. The repor ...


    Landscape-scale assessments of whitebark pine

    Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) is an ecologically important species in high-altitude areas of the Western United States. Whitebark pine stand ...


    Last updated on : 03/24/2020