Remembering Glen Smalley

portrait of Glen
Dr. Glendon W. Smalley, 1928-2020. USFS photo.

On August 2, 2020, Glendon W. Smalley died at his home in Sewanee, Tennessee. He was 92. Smalley was an Emeritus scientist with the Southern Research Station.

Smalley began working for the USDA Forest Service in 1953 on the Sam Houston National Forest in Texas, where he met his wife Mary, who passed in 2017. For 25 years, he served as research soil scientist in the Silviculture Laboratory of the Southern Forest Experiment Station in Sewanee, Tennessee. Smalley made quite a mark on students, practicing foresters, and land managers during his tenure.

A native of New Jersey, Smalley attended Michigan State University where he studied forestry, and he received his PhD from the University of Tennessee, where he focused on forest soils. He was a 50-year member of the Society of American Foresters, and he served as adjunct professor in the Department of Forestry and Wildlife at the University of Tennessee and as lecturer in the Department of Forestry and Geology at the University of the South.

Smalley’s early work focused on shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata), and after retirement he was excited about the new Shortleaf Pine Initiative, providing them with his early publications. He also wrote one of the few papers published on hackberry (Celtis occidentalis and C. laevigata).

Smalley’s contribution to site classification is unsurpassed. His work spanned 35 million acres in the Cumberland Plateau, Highland Rim-Pennyroyal, and Ridge and Valley regions. His integrated landform mapping was done meticulously by hand. Smalley produced six General Technical Reports in which he classified and evaluated forest sites for management of commercially valuable tree species. The reports provided forest managers with a system to categorize land into logical management units and rate site quality based on geologic, soil, and landform drivers of productivity. These reports were oriented to timber production, but they also incorporated management of non-timber forest resources.

Post-retirement, Smalley assisted the Tennessee Division of Forestry, the Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the former Mead Corporation with site classification. Many were interested in using site classification as a surrogate for site index, as well as in modeling species-environment relationships.

In 2004, Smalley partnered with John Rennie, Emeritus faculty at the University of Tennessee, to revisit a study established in 1973. The 1973 study aimed to test the applicability of Roach and Gingrich’s guide to Even-Aged Silviculture for Upland Central Hardwoods published in 1968. The update was published in 2004.

a group of people stand outside, looking at at a map that's on the ground
Smalley trained hundreds of foresters, students, and other natural resource professionals. USFS photo.

In 2006, he worked with Callie Schweitzer, SRS research forester, and Shanta Parajuli, a Nepalese graduate student at Alabama A&M University, on the use of remote sensing and geographic information systems to classify forest land. Smalley joked that they were ‘trying to put him out of business.’ The team produced models that matched his site classifications, and they presented their results at two professional conferences, including the Biennial Southern Silvicultural Research Conference.

Smalley had his hand in many activities. He was a leader of the Boy Scouts in Sewanee for years and entertained them with stories from the field. An entrepreneur, he sold real estate and was a proprietor of a Christmas tree farm. He even had a pet chicken named Taco.

His energy for science and technology transfer made him popular, and he trained hundreds of students and professionals. His exuberant personality delighted those who had the fortune of spending time with him, in the office and especially in the field.

Read the GTR about site classification in the Mid-Cumberland Plateau.

For more information, email the authors: Callie Schweitzer at callie.schweitzer@usda.gov, Stacy Clark at stacy.l.clark@usda.gov, and Henry McNab at henry.mcnab@usda.gov.

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