Photo of Tara L. Keyser

Tara L. Keyser

Center Director / Research Forester
200 W.T. Weaver Blvd
Asheville, NC 28804
Phone: 828-257-4303

Current Research

  • Traditional and novel silvicultural methods to regenerate and restore oak in upland hardwood ecosystems of the southern US
  • Ecological consequences of repeated burning on overstory, tree regeneration, and herbaceous layer communities in Appalachian hardwood stands
  • Modeling regeneration using the REGEN model
  • Seasonality of prescribed burning and effects on overstory, tree regeneration, and herbaceous layers
  • Using novel silvicultural systems based, in part, on natural disturbances to restore ecological complexity in even-aged, homogeneous Appalachian hardwood forests
  • The role on resource heterogeneity on the development of the regeneration and herbaceous layers in upland mixed-hardwood forests
  • The effects of silvicultural treatments on the health and vigour of eastern hemlock trees affected by hemlock wooly adelgid
  • Dendroecology and Carolina hemlock in the southern Appalachian Mountains

Research Interests

  • Using prescribed fire to achieve stand- and landscape-level goals and objectives
  • Restoration of ecological complexity - species, structural, and functional trait - to upland hardwood systems in the southern US
  • Integrating elements of natural disturbances into traditional silvicultural treatments to increase ecological complexity
  • The effects of disturbance, both anthropogenic and natural, on attributes of ecological complexity

Why This Research is Important

The forest systems of the southern Appalachian Highlands are diverse in their ecology, and their ability to provide the resources and services demanded by society including water, timber and biomass, recreation, wildlife habitat, aesthetics, and landscape diversity. Minor changes in topography greatly affect site productivity, species composition, competitive interactions, and response to disturbance. Our limited understanding of forest dynamics and ecological processes throughout stand development and across this complex landscape greatly inhibits land managers' ability to predict the response of vegetation to both planned silvicultural treatments and unplanned natural disturbance events. There is a need to improve our knowledge of the establishment and sustainability of forested systems under the influence of natural and silvicultural disturbances as well as under varying climatic scenarios. Silviculture is used by resource managers and forest planners to balance multiple-use with sustainability. Our efforts to predict and manage the dynamics of southern Appalachian forests under disturbances is directly tied to our ability to understand the differential responses of southern Appalachian tree species to both natural and anthropogenic (i.e., silvicultural) disturbances, including climate change. Quantification of the response to disturbance across environmental gradients will better enable natural resource practitioner to better predict changes in forest structure, composition, and habitat quality and to develop methods to meet management and restoration goals.


Ph.D. in Forest Sciences, 2007
Colorado State University
M.S. in Forest Sciences, 2005
Colorado State University
B.S. in Forest Ecology and Management, 1994
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Professional Experience

Research Forester, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, RWU-4157
Graduate Research Assistant, Colorado State University
Biological Science Technician, USDA, Agriculture Research Service, National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation
Forestry Technician, USDA, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station

Professional Organizations

  • North Carolina State University, Adjunct Associate Professor (2018—Current)
  • Western Carolina University, Adjunct Faculty (2015—Current)
  • Colorado State University, Adjunct Faculty (2010—Current)
  • University of Tennessee, Adjunct Faculty (2009—Current)
  • Xi Sigma Pi Forestry Honor Society, Member (1998—Current)
  • Society of American Foresters (SAF), Member (1996—Current)

Awards and Recognition

USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, 2012
Early Career Scientist Director's Award

Featured Publications and Products


Research Highlights

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.