James L. Chamberlain

Research Forest Products Technologist
1710 Research Center Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24060-6349
Phone: 540-231-3611

Current Research

Forest Inventory Tree Data to Improve Knowledge of Non-Timber Products: FIA collects data for a large number of tree species, and many are harvested for non-timber products. I am leading a team to examine the usefulness of FIA inventory data to analyze the situation with non-timber forest products that originate from trees (e.g., bark, nuts, and boughs). Non-Timber Forest Products Output Assessments: FIA has been undertaking TPO assessments to track primary wood products for over 70 years, which provides invaluable knowledge of the timber industry. As the SRS scientist dedicated to NTFP science, I am leading efforts to develop similar methods to assess and track non-timber forest product output. Our team is crafting, testing and implementing a replicable approach to acquire regular data on the volumes of non-timber products being procured at the primary processor level. The goal of this initiative is to develop a mechanism whereby FIA can track production of non-timber forest products that will become integral to FIA's product assessments. Post-Harvest Population Dynamics of NTFPs: Most of the raw material to supply the global market for medicinal herbs and foraged foods is harvested from natural populations with no empirical evidence of the ecological impact. Little is known about the level of harvesting that is sustainable, or post-harvest recovery of NTFP populations. In partnership with University colleagues, I am studying the effects of experimental harvest on natural populations of native medicinal forest plants, to develop inventory methods, and to examine approaches to forest farming the products. Forest Farming NTFPs on Private Lands: In 2008, I developed a network of private landowners to examine forest farming production methods that resulted in improving the understanding of production potential of five native medicinal forest products, as well as identifying opportunities to enhance management of NTFPs. We have expanded the focus of this research to examine how private forest landowners can work collectively to grow and market NTFPs which will provide insight into the process of creating sustainable land-based economies. Inventory methods for Non-timber Forest Products: FIA is charged with undertaking regular inventories of forest resources, and developing the means to do so using remote sensing technologies. Basic information on the environmental preferences and abundance of resources in the forest at local scales is critical to incorporating NTFPs into broad-scale inventories. Part of this effort is aimed at assessing the effectiveness of Landsat and other geospatial data to inventory NTFPs. The technology has been used to examine the dynamics of forest trees that prodice NTFPs, including pinion pine and sugar maple. I want to see if the technology is appropriate and useful for spring forest ephemeral understory herbs, such as ramps (aka, wild leeks;Allium tricoccum) and for forest plants that prefer more open canopy forests, such as beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax (Pursh) Nutt.). National Assessment of Non-Timber Forest Products: The National Assessment is a comprehensive review of the state of knowledge on NTFPs relative to potential impacts from climate variability and change. As co-lead and technical advisor on the project, I am coordinating the efforts of 6 teams of more than 30 experts from across the country, who are working independently on assessing critical issues [i.e., social, cultural, production, economic and ecological) regarding NTFPs and how climate change and related stressors may impact thes factors. Ecosystem Service Valuation of NTFPs: I am co-leading a team of economists to develop methods to value NTFPs as a provisioning service of forest ecosystems. Our tasks include proposing reasonable state of the art approaches to quantify and value the ecosystem services of NTFPs.

Research Interests

My research focuses on issues that affect non-timber forest products, the management of the resources and production from natural forests as well as through forest farming. Through my research, FIA is developing methods to inventory, monitor and assess growth and yield of non-timber forest products. Our teams are identifying and quantifying the impact of wild-harvesting and developing sustainable harvest and management approaches. We are developing cost-effective methods to forest farm these products on private lands that may result in better conservation of the resources in natural stands. And, our team is developing methods to assess and monitor the various segments of the non-timber forest products industry to better track and evaluate the economic contributions of the industry.


Ph.D.in Forest Management for Non-Timber Forest Products, 2000
College of Natural Resources, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Master Of Artsin Economics, 1996
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Master Of Forest Sciencein Social Dimensions of Forestry, 1986
School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University
B.S.in Wood Products Engineering, Forest Products Marketing, 1979
College of Environmental Science & Forestry, State Univeristy of New York
A.S.in Forest Management, 1976
Paul Smiths College

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Research Highlights

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R&D Affiliations
Research Topics
External Resources
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  • The sites listed below are third-party sites which the Forest Service has provided for reference only.