Women in Science: Callie Schweitzer

The 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 Callie Schweitzer, a research forester with the Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management Research Unit in Huntsville, Alabama. She received her doctorate and master’s degrees in Forest Resources and Ecology from Pennsylvania State University.

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Schweitzer standing in an oak regeneration stand on the Bankhead National Forest in Alabama. Photo by USFS.

Schweitzer conducts research in hardwood forests of the southeastern United States and concentrates primarily on the Cumberland Plateau area and associated highlands. She is interested in how natural disturbance like fires and tornadoes affect hardwood forests and on defining appropriate techniques and mechanisms for sustaining productive forests.

“Hardwood silviculture research requires a rather large commitment of land and time,” says Schweitzer. “Installation of new studies requires pre-planning, implementation, data collection, analysis, and publication. This includes selecting study partners and sites, field reconnaissance work, much cajoling of interested parties, design and implementation, and pre-treatment data collecting. The amount of involvement with treatment implementation varies with partners, but much of my time is spent organizing and overseeing the study.”

Schweitzer grew up on the banks of the Ohio River and says she has always been drawn to the outdoors. She was inspired by books with adventures and quests, like the “Little House on the Prairie” series.

As an undergraduate, she studied biology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she was exposed to ecology and geography. In graduate school at Penn State, Schweitzer was able to work on projects involving soils, fish, wildlife, water issues, and forests.

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Schweitzer speaks with the National Advanced Silviculture Program during a field tour on the Bankhead National Forest in Alabama. Photo by USFS.

“The more I learned about how forest management could drive responses of other resources, the more interested I became in how forests could be manipulated to sustain those uses, driven by ecological stewardship,” adds Schweitzer.

Schweitzer is a member of the SAF Society of American Foresters, where she is currently the chair of the Mountain Lakes Chapter and is involved with disseminating forest research to a variety of groups throughout Alabama and the surrounding areas.

She says she could not conduct any of her research without partners, and that she is fortunate to work with partners from forest industry, state and federal agencies, private landowners, and non-governmental organizations.

How did Schweitzer get interested in upland oak forests? What advice would she give to young scientists? Visit Women in Science to learn more about Schweitzer — including her recent National Silviculture Award — and others.

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

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