Women in Science: Stacy Clark

The new Women in Science series features women scientists from across the Southern Research Station (SRS)–their education, career paths, challenges, achievements, and inspirations.

Meet SRS scientist Stacy Clark, a research forester with the Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management Research Unit in Knoxville, Tennessee. She received a B.S. from the University of Tennessee in Forest Management and a Master’s degree in Forestry. She then decided to take a different path, earning a Ph.D. in Plant Science from Oklahoma State University.

Stacy Clark examines a young chestnut tree. Photo by USFS.

Clark conducts research in hardwood forests of the southeastern United States and concentrates primarily on testing various methods of how to plant oak and American chestnut seedlings for reforestation or restoration purposes.

As a teenager, Clark enjoyed being outdoors, hiking and camping, and always knew she wanted to conduct research for a living. She dreamed of being a scientist for the Forest Service and even worked with several Forest Service scientists and managers while earning her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from UT. Clark had a well-rounded education and experience on the applied side of forest management and on the ecological side of understanding forest dynamics. Fast forward a few years: it is 2005 and she is conducting long-term research for the Forest Service – her dream job.

Humans, livestock, and wildlife once relied on American chestnut fruits for a nutritious food source. Clark and partners are working to bring American chestnut back to the landscape.  

Clark stands beside an American chestnut tree planted at the University of the South’s Forest Domain. Photo by USFS.

A century ago, towering American chestnut trees would’ve dominated the hills surrounding her office. These giants once played a critical ecological and economic role throughout the eastern United States, providing prized wood and nutritious food for humans, livestock, and wildlife—that is, until the chestnut blight infected them throughout their range and profoundly altered the landscape.

Today, Clark is focused on bringing them back. Her studies are aiding development of high-quality nursery seedlings and determining the best light and forest conditions that allow them to compete and thrive when planted. Working with the University of Tennessee, The American Chestnut Foundation, and other partners, Clark is studying the growth and survival of thousands of seedlings, bred over decades for blight resistance and now planted across three national forests in the southern Appalachians.

With careful planning, informed management, and, of course, patience, the American chestnut will rise again, and its success will be due to dedicated citizens, land managers, and researchers like Stacy Clark.

Read on to learn more about Clark. Who inspires her? What does a typical work day look like for her? Why does she enjoy her work? Visit Women in Science to learn more.

For more information, email Teresa Jackson at teresajackson@fs.fed.us.

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