Photo of Callie Schweitzer

Callie Schweitzer

Research Forester
730-D Cook Ave
Huntsville, AL 35801
Phone: 256-603-0969

Current Research

My current research focuses on the ecological role of disturbance in hardwood forest ecosystems of the Cumberland Plateau and associated highlands. I am interested in defining the appropriate silvicultural techniques for sustaining the production of desired benefits in the region. My initial activities in this new program are focusing on understanding vegetation distribution in relation to environmental gradients and understanding structural and compositional dynamics in response to disturbance. Several studies have been installed in the region which will test vegetation manipulation treatments and allow for analysis of their impacts on the dynamics, productivity, and sustainability of upland hardwood forests. 

Current studies
  • Prescribed fire use to promote desired species composition and structure
  • Applied silviculture systems such as variable retention shelterwood harvests Wildlife habitat creation and population dynamics congruent with silviculture (regeneration and intermediate stand treatments)
  • Development of an ecological framework for forests and woodlands based on disturbance knowledge
  • Management options for mixed woods Regeneration responses to forest management and natural disturbances such as tornado-created forest gaps
  • Assisting the Land Trust of North Alabama and the Monte Sano State Park with a comprehensive plan to address non-native invasive species on over 8,000 acres of urban-forest interface.
  • Contributing to the restoration of threatened or endangered species such as the American chestnut tree (partners include the Redstone Arsenal and The American Chestnut Foundation), the Whooping crane (partners include Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge) and Morefield’s leather flower (Alabama A&M University, Huntsville Botanical Garden, Alabama Natural Heritage Program) by studying the forested habitat characteristics and associated pressures.
  • We are assessing the efficacy of riparian tree planting to better assist the Alabama Forestry Commission and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in their efforts to help landowners reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies, and increase potential for income and wildlife habitat.

Research Interests

Forests in the Cumberland Plateau and associated highlands are an amalgam of biological composition and social structure. Using our forested resources wisely requires pragmatic science to address pending questions, and strong partnerships to apply best practices on the ground. The U.S. Forest Service’s field research work unit located in Huntsville, Alabama is engaging myriad partners to help guide the use, growth and sustainability of the hardwood forests in the area. Economic drivers, such as Brown-Forman and Jack Daniel’s need for quality white oak logs, are being coupled with the biological conundrum of regenerating oak to raise awareness of how active management and viable markets can work towards sustained solutions.

Past Research

Upland hardwood silviculture research in the Cumberland Plateau and associated highlands has a long history. Research units previously located in Berea, KY and Sewanee, TN set the stage for the next generation of studies. Our focused program of research on applied silviculture in these systems addresses current issues related to the management of these systems. Callie has been engaged in research here for 15 years, and has installed over 10 large-scale field studies in AL, TN and KY. Her work encompasses forests managed by the William B. Bankhead and Daniel Boone National Forests; Alabama’s James B. Skyline Wildlife Management Area; Forest Industry (Mead, MeadWestvaco, Coastal Timberlands, WestRock, Stevenson Land Company); non-governmental lands and private land ownerships. She is active in technology transfer, coordinating over 50 field-oriented training and short courses for State forestry and wildlife agencies, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, university faculty and students, consulting foresters and other forest managers. Callie serves as adjunct faculty at several universities, and has served on over 50 graduate student committees. She has given over 200 presentations across the US, and was invited to present her research in Denmark, Sweden and China. She has hosted several Chinese researchers and collaborated in forestry and wildlife research projects with them.

Why This Research is Important

The upland hardwood and mixed pine-hardwood systems of the Cumberland Plateau and associated highlands provide a diverse and dynamic array of eco-system goods and services. My research aims to advance our knowledge of the ecology and silviculture of these forests to inform management decisions and establish guidelines that ensure the integrity and resiliency of these ecosystems. Restoration is a serious economic problem, requiring investment and often involving timber management. When restoration involves precommerical thinning or other tending treatments such as the use of herbicides or prescribed burning, there are major costs involved. In simple terms, dumping a bunch of small diameter trees on the ground and burning them up costs money. There isn’t enough tax payer money (whether allocated to federal lands or to cost-share programs for private landowners) to fund all these activities and to accomplish all the needed restoration in eastern upland hardwood forests. The value of timber becomes important as a revenue stream to off-set some of the costs of restoration. A conundrum- how does one use fire for restoration without causing damage to timber trees? How do we balance the damage that may be incurred and subsequent rot, tree snags, trees with holes, which create ephemeral but valued wildlife habitat, with a need to maintain an overstory for 200 or more years, and then with real costs associated with regenerating the stand? Planning for the future of our forests will allow us wise use, economic investment, and community commitment. Forestry is essential to the economy of the Cumberlands, for example, forestry is Alabama’s second largest manufacturing industry, and with the continued population growth in the area, active conservation will be imperative. Through a network of partnerships and outreach activities, we hope to educate the public on the application of conservation tools, including timber harvesting, the selective use of herbicides, and prescribed fire. Our research aims to get the urban population engaged and invested, and balance smart growth to include providing multiple uses of our forests, including wood products, recreation, and natural scenery.


Ph.D. in Forest Resources
Pennsylvania State University
M.S. in Forest Ecology
Pennsylvania State University
B.S. in Biology
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Professional Experience

Graduate Faculty, The University of Alabama

College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geology, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

Adjunct faculty, The University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, Knoxville, TN

Adjunct faculty, Alabama A&M University

Center for Forestry, Ecology and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences

Instructor and Board of Regents, National Recreation and Parks Association, Green School

National Training Center, Oglebay Resort and Conference Center, Wheeling, WV.

Professional Organizations

  • Society of American Foresters, Mountain Lakes Chapter, Alabama, Chair (2016—Current)
  • North Alabama Land Trust, Committee Member (2010—Current)
  • North Alabama Land Trust, Board Member (2009—2015)
  • Huntsville Tree Commission, Board Member (2003—2010)
  • Society of American Foresters, Mountain Lakes Chapter, Alabama, Chair (2003—2005)
  • Society of American Foresters, Mountain Lakes Chapter, Alabama, Vice-Chair (2002—2003)
  • Society of American Foresters, Pisgah Chapter, North Carolina, Secretary-Treasurer (1998—2000)
  • Society of American Foresters, Broadleaf Chapter, Mississippi, Secretary-Treasurer (1996—1998)

Awards and Recognition

Fellow, 2022
Society of American Foresters
USDA Forest Service National Silviculture Award, 2017
The award appropriately reflects excellence in silviculture research; producing over 150 publications in a variety of outlets, mentoring graduate students and organizing meetings that brought the latest research to resource managers.
Appreciation Award for Forestry Guide and Host, 2011
Northwest A&F University, China
Achievement Recognition, 2011
Group of Southern Hardwood Foresters, for tour leadership
USDA Forest Service Senior Leader Program, 2005
Award of Excellence for Research, 2004
Society of American Foresters, Southeastern Chapter of AL, GA and FL
Outstanding Young Forester, 1998
Society of American Foresters, State of Mississippi
National Taking Wing Award, 1997
Public Awareness

Featured Publications and Products


Research Highlights

Keeping oak forests in oak (2017)
SRS-2017-169 Maintaining oaks in southeastern forests is desirable for economic and ecological reasons. Forest managers face many challenges as oak forests grow older and oaks are replaced by other tree species. Specific management to favor sustaining oak in U.S. forests while providing economic and ecological benefits are showing promise in addressing these concerns.

Scientists Embrace Shared Stewardship to Deliver Silviculture Research (2020)
SRS-2020-55 Since 1992, the SRS Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management Research Work Unit has provided workshops and trainings to fulfill continuing education requirements for both federal and non-federal land managers. In 2020, scientists planned to introduce an updated Upland Hardwood Silviculture course to meet training needs of state partners in the southern region. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced scientists to quickly modify the logistics and structure of this highly anticipated training. With assistance from SRS IT specialists, SRS scientists conducted an all-virtual short course. The course delivered the most up-to-date information about the management of upland hardwood forests to more than 100 foresters and natural resource practitioners.

White Oak Reproduction Under Fire: Thinning and Prescribed Fire to Benefit Species in Demand (2020)
SRS-2020-24 White oak commodity production has seen an uptick due to increased demand for spirits distilled in white oak barrels. To maintain white oak primacy, which supports ecosystems as well as industry, managers must ensure that white oak saplings survive and grow into the canopy. USDA Forest Service researchers are partnering wtih partners across the U.S. to provide managers with wills and knowledge to maintain this vital component of U.S. Forests.

Why are we using prescribed fire in upland hardwoods? (2018)
SRS-2018-43 Prescribed fire in upland hardwoods can be a management conundrum. Challenges include timing fire to meet goals for forest reproduction without introducing damage to the residual stand. Scenarios are presented to help managers better understand these challenges.

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