The Southern Pine Module Goes Virtual

SRS & Southern Region host online silviculture workshop

widely spaced pine trees with flowers underneath them
Grasses and flowering plants are a big part of shortleaf pine woodlands. Photo by Virginia McDaniel, USFS.

In 2019, Janet Hinchee, the USDA Forest Service Regional Silviculturist for the South invited me to coordinate the Southern Pine Module, a ten day workshop for the Forest Service National Advanced Silviculture Program.

The workshop is a key element of the agency’s program for National Forest land managers, especially district silviculturists, to obtain required silvicultural certification for implementing project-level activities in the field. It also serves a continuing education service for agency silviculturists who have already received their certification. Fifteen of the region’s district and forest silviculturists had signed up to participate in this year’s session.

The workshop highlights the ecology and management of southern pines and focuses on loblolly, shortleaf, and longleaf pine. In previous workshops, about half of the session was lectures and presentations, and half was in the field with boots on the ground.

We originally scheduled a ten-day session that would start in shortleaf pine-dominated stands on the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, then on to the mixed loblolly-shortleaf pine stands on the upper West Gulf Coastal Plain near the Crossett Experimental Forest, and finally to the longleaf pine ecosystems on the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana.

historic photo of shortleaf pine trees, many of them with a double trunk
Historic photo of shortleaf pine trees that have two trunks. These trees were top-killed by fire when young. Photo courtesy of Jim Guldin USFS.

But this year, the field session was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Janet Hinchee was really disappointed that the session might be cancelled, and she asked the best question – why not do the lecture part online? I guess you could say I reluctantly agreed!

But then SRS technology experts Ed Mundy and Jeremy Jones pitched in to help, and their enthusiasm was infectious. I pulled together an agenda and assembled the team of experts who have done this in the past in the field. They prepared their presentations, the web team got them uploaded into Adobe Connect, and we were off.

The experts included:

The presentations covered every aspect of pine ecology and silviculture. Topics ranged from markets and economics to genetic resource management. Experts also discussed invasive and destructive plants and insects such as Chinese tallow tree and the southern pine beetle.

With the session in the field cancelled, we were pleased that the workshop could be reconfigured. And although we missed being in the field, we took virtual field tours of shortleaf pine, mixed loblolly-shortleaf pine stands, and longleaf pine.

landscape view with trees and rocks
Presentations covered every aspect of shortleaf pine silviculture. Photo courtesy of Jim Guldin, USFS.

We included a few wrinkles; one of the tour stops went back in time, based on the Life History of Shortleaf Pine, a 1915 USDA Bulletin by W.R. Mattoon. His photos and descriptions present a different view of shortleaf pine a century ago, and it’s really interesting to compare that with where we are today in our efforts to bring that iconic species back on the landscape.

Presentations and recordings are available on the SRS intranet [internal link] for land managers across the region – a key advantage of the virtual session and an example of effective science delivery.

Editors’ note: The 2020 Virtual Southern Pine Workshop is the ninth workshop Jim Guldin has coordinated.  

Learn more about SRS research on longleaf pine and other southern pines.

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