Workshop on Southern Experimental Forest Network

21st-century south-wide EF network goals and next steps

More than 20 representatives from SRS Experimental Forests (EF), Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA), SRS leadership, and partner sites met on April 30 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

SRS research ecologist Mac Callaham conducts a field tour of the Hitchiti Experimental Forest in Georgia in preparation for two cross-site studies. USFS photo.

“Their primary objective was to build on previous efforts, such as the field tours, and develop an implementation framework and plan for the network,” says Stephanie Laseter, EF network coordinator and liaison between SRS and the Southern Region.

Networks result in better coordination, less duplication, and better use of resources and long-term local investments. A network of scientists and managers will enhance the scientific capacity to address the issues identified through the Southern Forest Futures Project.

The EF network is for all sites and all SRS scientists. The workshop focused on research objectives that can be accomplished with a network approach, rather than individual projects or locations.

Research and management activities on the Crossett Experimental Forest in Arkansas include shortleaf pine-bluestem grass ecosystem renewal and red-cockaded woodpecker recovery. USFS photo.

Workshop participants first reviewed and updated findings from Southern Forest Futures Project. They summarized tour outcomes with reports from each team.

“We had a series of group discussions,” adds Laseter. “Topics included network-wide data needs, such as FIA; project ideas that could support key issues or questions; facility and infrastructure needs, along with workforce planning; and partner engagement and participation in the network.”

After reviewing a draft strategic plan for the network, participants developed a plan of work that included timelines and recommendations for next steps.

Over the next six months, short-term goals include:

  • Share a briefing paper to workshop attendees and SRS employees.
  • Finalize the draft strategic plan.
  • Draft a manuscript that explains the benefits of a network structure.
  • A working group will identify what baseline measurements are needed.
  • Prepare briefings for Southern Region’s executive staff summit and leadership team meeting.
  • A working group will work with the Southern Region’s Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment staff to compile network-wide site use history and priority datasets.

Over the next year, mid-term goals include:

  • Two working groups will develop study plans for new cross-site studies on 1) restoration, recovery, and disturbance; and 2) management and resilience.
  • Develop recommendation for FIA intensification plots across the network, with measurements to begin during the FY2019 growing season.
  • Discuss options for Center for Aquatic Technology Transfer sampling at some EF network locations.
  • Explore idea of traveling tech teams (Swat Team Science) that would integrate current technical and professional staff and also include Pathways interns or temporary employees.
  • Develop recommendations for the SRS Research Advisory Board to lead network engagement with external SRS partners such as universities, the Northern Research Station, or the International Institute of Tropical Forestry.

Looking further out, activities will focus on collecting baseline measurements, initiating long-term monitoring, implementing cross-site studies, and coordinating with partners across the Southern Region and agency-wide.

“The EF network is also a connected group of people. Our vision is to help participants stay engaged through in-person and virtual working group meetings – and to keep stakeholders informed through regular communication updates,” says Laseter.

Learn more about SRS experimental forests with the online map and tour.

For more information about the EFN or working groups, email Stephanie Laseter at

Access the latest publications by SRS scientists.