Photo of Marty Spetich

Marty Spetich

Research Forest Ecologist
P.O. Box 1270
Hot Springs, AR 71902-1270
Phone: 501-623-1180 x105

Current Research

Martin Spetich is a Research Forest Ecologist for the Southern Research Station. His integrated research program addresses forest dynamics and the development of both short and long-term studies at three scales: stand, state, and regional.

Dr. Spetich is currently involved in research that addresses the following: 

  • Oak decline across the eastern United States
  • Spatiotemporal dynamics of temperate forests
  • Vegetation feedbacks in relationship to climate
  • Improving our understanding of natural and anthropogenic disturbances in forest systems and modeling successional pathways
  • Developing and testing sustainable silvicultural systems and predictive models for natural and artificial regeneration
  • Improving our knowledge of insect and disease effects on forest regeneration and succession
  • Developing silvicultural tools, prescriptions, and management guidelines to help forest managers meet management goals effectively
  • He also incorporates knowledge gained from his field studies into landscape scale collaborative team projects

Dr. Spetich received his B.S. degree in Forest Biology from The Ohio State University in 1983; his M.S. degree in Silviculture from The Ohio State University in 1985; worked  as a research technician for the Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, Ohio from 1985 to 1986; worked as a District Forester for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) from January 1986 to mid-1991; began a Ph.D. program at Purdue University in 1991 - completing it in1995; worked as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Purdue University from 1995 through 1998; began working as a research forester for the Southern Research Station (SRS) in 1998; and has been a Research Forest Ecologist for SRS since 2010.

Research Examples:

Getting science results out, examples:

Research Interests

I am working on research in oak-dominated forests of the Ozark-Ouachita Highlands, where oak-hickory is the most extensive forest type, covering over 15 million acres. The majority of the work is applied, and considerable effort is made to bring application of research results to resource managers and others. I am working to develop methods for forest restoration, sustainability, and to forecast long-term, large-scale changes in forests throughout the south and beyond. I am working to understand factors associated with oak mortality and on methods to minimize its impact. I also manage two experimental forests totaling over 5,000 acres.

Past Research

Marty has worked for the Southern Research Station since 1998. He has published more than 70 scientific manuscripts and other publications; given more than 90 scientific presentations; given invited talks in China and Russia; done collaborative research with university and government scientists; taught classes at both The Ohio State University and Purdue University; and presented over 40 technical transfer talks, workshops and field days. In addition he holds adjunct faculty status at several universities.

Why This Research is Important

Restoration of forest species is important for maintaining the integrity and sustainability of forests. While forecasting landscape change is an essential quantitative tool for understanding the large-scale, long-term, cumulative effects of forest management. This knowledge is required for management of National Forests and equally crucial to private forestland owners who own the majority of the forests in the eastern United States.


Ph.D. in Forest Ecology & Silviculture, 1995
Purdue University
M.S. in Silviculture, 1985
The Ohio State University
B.S. in Natural Resources (Forest Biology), 1983
The Ohio State University

Professional Experience

Research Forest Ecologist, GS-0408-14, USDA Forest Service, Southen Research Station

Mission: Dr. Spetich is a Research Forest Ecologist with the Southern Research Station’s Research Work Unit (RWU) FS-SRS-4157, Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management, with unit headquarters located in Asheville, NC. He has leadership responsibility for upland hardwood research development and administration. The duty station of the scientist is Hot Springs, AR. The mission of the unit is to develop and disseminate knowledge and strategies for restoring, managing, sustaining, and enhancing the vegetation and wildlife of upland hardwood-dominated forest ecosystems of the central region of the eastern United States. The research integrates theory, experimentation, dissemination and application of results. Research is designed to enable land managers to better predict changes in forest structure, composition, and habitat quality and to develop methods to meet land management, conservation, and restoration goals for upland hardwood forests. Duties: Dr. Spetich plans and conducts research on ecology and silviculture of upland hardwood forests; the scientist is also the Unit’s primary contact west of the Mississippi River for science delivery of research products and expertise in upland hardwood forest ecology, silviculture and forest dynamics to a wide range of customers. Research emphasis is on oak-dominated forests of the Ozark-Ouachita Highlands, where oak-hickory is the most extensive forest type, covering over 15 million acres. The majority of the work is applied, and considerable effort is made to bring application of research results to resource managers and others. Accomplishments: My research addresses a range of spatial and temporal scales. I have conducted applied forest ecology and silvicultural research in ecosystems that range from xeric oak forests of the Ozark Highlands to mesophytic forests of the Central Hardwood Region by creatively expanding concepts and methods. I continue to develop new management methods to regenerate and restore oak in areas where more shade tolerant species are successionally replacing it. I initiated a complex, integrated set of long-term studies to maintain species diversity while promoting natural and artificial oak reproduction. These studies use prescribed fire, other vegetation control methods, group openings, improvement harvests, shelterwoods or a combination of these methods, as well as taking advantage of natural disturbances. I develop opportunities to creatively demonstrate and disseminate research information. I also initiated several short-term cooperative studies on fire history, aforestation, natural regeneration, age, and spatial analyses to help answer other key research questions. My studies are designed as integrated phases of the overall research with the objective of understanding the dynamics of upland hardwood forests across the landscape and through time. I developed new hypotheses, concepts and management methods to extend existing knowledge for upland hardwood forest dynamics through time. The information gained and techniques developed are distilled into easily understood applications; providing valuable new guidance for resource managers. For instance, the oak underplanting success model (OAKUS) for upland oak-hickory forests in the Ozark Highlands uses regression and probabilistic statistical models to predict success of underplanted northern red oak seedlings 11 years after planting. OAKUS is located at an Internet site that any forest manager with a PC can access ( The OAKUS website allows managers to easily and interactively solve complex, site specific underplanting problems.

Research Forester, GS-460-13, USDA Forest Service, Southen Research Station

The scientist is a Research Forester with the Southern Research Station’s Research Work Unit (RWU) FS-SRS-4106, Managing Upland Forest Ecosystems in the Midsouth, with unit headquarters located in Monticello, AR. The scientist has leadership responsibility for upland hardwood research development and administration. The duty station of the scientist is Hot Springs, AR. The mission of the unit is to provide scientific information to understand, manage and sustain the ecological processes, structures, and benefits of mixed loblolly-shortleaf pine and pine-hardwood forests of the upper West Gulf Coastal Plain, the shortleaf pine and pine-hardwood forests of the Ouachita and Ozark Mountains, and the upland oak-hickory forests of the Ozark Mountains. The RWU has three assigned problem areas: (1) our understanding of the factors that govern the establishment and early development of natural regeneration of pines and hardwoods limits our ability to maintain the productivity and sustainability of forest stands in the Midsouth, (2) our ability to apply and modify silvicultural practices in immature and mature stands of naturally-regenerated pines and hardwoods of the Midsouth is limited by our understanding of the ecological patterns and processes that govern stand dynamics and development, and (3) our ability to ensure the health, sustainability, and productivity of upland forests in the Midsouth is limited by our incomplete understanding of the cumulative hydrological and ecological effects that result when management activities are imposed across a landscape. The RWU’s scientific team is developing low-cost and low-impact silvicultural systems for natural stands across a wide range of forest types (upland hardwood, mixed pine-hardwood, and pine) and physiographic regions (Interior Highlands and Upper Coastal Plain). The scientist’s work supports the Southern Research Station Strategic Plan Cross Cutting Theme, “Sustainability and Productivity of the Interior Highlands Ecosystem.” This theme is an interdisciplinary program that encompassed the mission of SRS-4106 during the period that this PD covers.

Research Forester, GS-460-12, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station

Mission and role: To examine upland deciduous forest dynamics at multiple scales. These stand, state and regional studies include: growth, reproduction and diversity of upland hardwood forests in the Arkansas highlands; forest dynamics of Ozark Highlands, Boston Mountains, Arkansas River Valley, Ouachita Mountains and the eastern US; land use history; and regional dynamics of upland old-growth forests of the Midwest. Duties: These include: Silviculture; forest ecology; social and economic influences on management; geographic information systems and remote sensing; regeneration and long-term dynamics of forest development and composition; spatial patterns and dynamics of upland hardwood forests; spatial and temporal relationships of forests and forest resources at the landscape scale; fire history; effects of fire on forest development; and ecosystem monitoring in Russia. Accomplishments: Continuation of 5 exiting studies, establishment of 4 major new studies and preparation for an additional 3 new studies. Journal and proceeding publications including Forest Science, Biennial Southern Silvicultural Conference and Central Hardwood Forest Conference.

Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

Mission and role: A principal investigator on a regional study of old-growth and second-growth upland forests across a productivity gradient including Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Iowa. To execute work, analysis, data interpretation and reporting of research results. To develop a better understanding of composition, structure and development of mid- and late successional forests. Development of multidisciplinary cooperative projects. Duties: This was a cooperative study between Purdue University and the USDA Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station at Columbia, MO. The purpose of this central hardwood region study was to: 1) Analyze dynamics, distribution and structural characteristics of coarse woody debris across a regional productivity gradient. 2) Determine the spatial and temporal relationships of old-growth and secondary forests in Indiana. 3) Examine the composition, structure and development of mid- and late successional forests. 4) Investigate patterns of disturbance frequency and intensity in a Midwestern old-growth forest to determine spatial dynamics, oak regeneration and development. 5) Determine ground cover characteristics of Midwestern old-growth forests. 6) Make recommendations for monitoring biomass under three typical disturbance regimes. 7) Apply this information to forest management in the central hardwood region. 8) Present and publish these results at national scientific meetings and in major journals. 9) Develop multidisciplinary cooperative projects and supporting study plans (see below). 10) Participate in graduate education. Accomplishments: Completed 1 through 10 above. Modified and used state-of-the-art technology to compare long-term/large-scale consequences of forest fragmentation to complete #2 above. Teaching and Technology Transfer Duties Development and teaching of a forest ecosystems course for fall of 1996. I was the principal instructor for this course. I have also been a guest lecturer for several classes at Purdue U. as well a part of a team teaching effort in natural resources utilization. In addition to the objectives mentioned above, a technology transfer brochure will be developed to inform the public and land managers about the state of knowledge regarding Midwestern old-growth forests as well as historic forest landscape changes. Postdoctoral Multidisciplinary Collaborative Project (Identifying Research Problems and Developing Study Plans): International work: I was a principal investigator on a study in Russia that began during my postdoctoral work at Purdue University. This was a collaborative effort with the Deputy Director for Scientific Research at the Denezhkin Kamen Federal Nature Preserve of the Russian Federal Ministry for Environmental Protection, Sverdlosk Oblast, Russia. We also have established lines of communication with the Russian Ministry of Environmental Protection and directors of several preserves in the Ural mountain region. In order to address the current lack of coordination among Federal preserves, this project focused on the implementation of a model system for monitoring in Russia’s federal preserve system. These preserves represent some of the largest deposits of biodiversity left on the planet allowing us to address one of the most significant global environmental issues of our time.

Ph.D. Research & Grad. Instructor, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

Mission and role: Co-principal investigator on a cooperative regional old-growth study with the USDA Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station at Columbia, Missouri. The basic mission was to characterize old-growth forests across a four-state portion of the central hardwood region. Duties: This involved cooperative development of study plan, biomass modeling from 1926 to 1992, landscape modeling and analysis of present and future old-growth forests in Indiana, regional analysis of old-growth sites and analysis of old-growth vs. second growth forests in Indiana. Research included: use and programming of PC-based software; theory of GIS and use of UNIX-based GIS programs; meeting and interviewing various people from non-governmental conservation organizations, forest industry, and local, state and federal government agencies, as well as private landowners; budgeting; field work, including location of old-growth sites, layout of permanent plots, coordination and supervision of personnel, scheduling of equipment and lodging; use and understanding of statistical procedures, theory and software. The graduate instructorship included counseling graduate students and teaching various classes for major professor in his absence. Funding for this project was provided by the USDA Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. Accomplishments: Completed old-growth forest characterization, Ph.D. and all duties above.

District Forester, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indianapolis, Indiana

Mission and role: To serve as a forest stewardship resource by integrating current knowledge into silvicultural prescriptions and multidisciplinary management plans; by representing the department as an expert in forest resource management; and by implementing cooperative agreements with state, federal and other public land management agencies as well as non-government conservation organizations. Duties: Administration of all aspects of District #18 including: weekly, monthly and yearly reports; budgeting of all district finances; keeping current on new resource management techniques and applications; knowledge of current status of over 85 laws; and supervisory tasks. Administered the Classified Forest Program on over 22,000 acres of private forestland in over 300 ownerships. Cost share responsibilities including FIP and ACP programs. Assisted soil and water conservation districts. Management planning duties for landowners including: inspect woodlands and tree planting sites; develop forest management plans and tree planting plans; inventory woodlands and interpret data for growth, harvest and/or TSI needs. Salesmanship and cooperation including: promotion of IFWOA, the Tree Farm program and other landowner associations; promotion of planting and TSI services by private consultants; work with above agencies through public talks, field days, demonstrations, etc. Information and education responsibilities including: editor for the district #5 Tree Farm Committee; writing news releases and articles; work with school groups, 4-H groups, youth groups, etc.; and Project Learning Tree facilitator. Assisted landowners with timber sales including: marketing; determination of tree quality and species by volume; examined and evaluated the need for a harvest; and provided owners with plans, timber sale contracts and marketing information. Conducted logging job audits on state forests. Assisted local industries with: mill reviews, logging operation reviews, harvesting plans, post harvest exams, etc. Insect and disease identification in woodlands. Accomplishments: Practiced silviculture for more than five years in central hardwood forests, adapting the principles of silvics and silviculture to local conditions. Adapted and applied silvicultural techniques to regenerate forest trees and to control species composition, structure and growth through all forest development stages with uneven aged management as a major method. This included over 26,000 acres of on-site forest management assistance to private landowners; over 1,900 landowners assisted; over 640 acres of tree planting plans implemented; and over 86 insect and disease assists affecting over 390 acres. Developed a large network of natural resource specialists and others to work on cooperative projects.

Research Technician, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, OH

Mission: Execute fieldwork for forestry research in a timely and accurate manner. Duties: Data collection and analysis on forestry projects including: knowledge of research methods and assimilation of project objectives; travel to and location of study sites in Ohio; operation of equipment and field measurements; evaluation of study sites for treatment impact; and coordination of schedule to meet project needs. Implemented maintenance of genetically improved trees. Accomplishments: Completed timely, efficient and accurate fieldwork on all assigned studies.

Teaching/Research Associate, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Mission: Execute tree improvement fieldwork, analysis and interpretation of data and reporting of research results. Facilitate an active learning environment for students. Duties: Teaching: conducted laboratory part of Dendrology class consisting of demonstrations, slide presentations, composing written aids, counseling students and overall organization of recitations. Research: determination of response of trees to cultural treatments, data collection in experimental tree plantations consisting of use of whole-tree-chipper, statistical analysis utilizing Amdahl 470 computer system and scheduling personnel and equipment. Accomplishments: Completed fieldwork, analysis and MS thesis. Taught Dendrology lab. to more than 60 students.

Forest Technician, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Mission: To execute effective and efficient technical forest research field assistance for the development of silvicultural guidelines for sustainable harvest and regeneration of oak forests. Duties and Accomplishments: Coordinated data collection at research areas. Collected data for three research studies on hardwood tree species including determination of tree species, percent cull, crown class, merchantable height, growth increment, diameters, furrow dimensions and grade of standing trees. Located boundaries on 32 experimental forest plots.

Professional Organizations

  • Ecological Society of America, Member (1992—Current)
  • Natural Areas Association, Member (1992—Current)
  • Society of American Foresters (SAF), Member (1981—Current)
  • International Association for Landscape Ecology, Member (1995—2008)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Member (1996—2007)
  • Torrey Botanical Society, Member (1996—2007)
  • American Institute of Biological Sciences, Member (1992—2007)
  • American Society for Photogrammetry & Remote Sensing, Member (1992—1999)
  • Indiana Academy of Science, Member (1992—1999)

Awards and Recognition

Research Station Award, 2014
Cooperation and Teamwork
Society of American Foresters (Ouachita Chapter), 2013
Forest Science Award
Individual Special Act, 2010
Mission Results
Performance Appraisal, 2009
Leadership and Teamwork
Performance Appraisal, 2008
Outstanding performance rating
Extra Effort Award, 2008
For his role in the new cooperative RWU-4157 regional oak study – with expertise in fuels, fire and sampling
Extra Effort Award, 2007
For excellent management of his program of research and substantial contributions to planning of the unit’s regional oak study
Performance Bonus Award, 2004
For leadership in delivery of the Upland Oak Ecology and Management Symposium Proceedings to the scientific community, professional resource managers and the public
USDA Certificate of Merit, 2003
For “Significant achievement in vertical integration of oak planting research results, including a refereed journal outlet, a summary for practicing professionals in a symposium proceedings, and a web-based computer model for practical application”
USDA Certificate of Merit, 2002
For outstanding work in coordinating the program for the Upland Oak Ecology Symposium, held in October 2002 in Fayetteville, Arkansas
USDA Certificate of Merit, 2001
For extra effort in establishing a productive cooperative relationship as research liaison with Ozark-St. Francis National Forest
USDA Certificate of Merit, 2000
For study plan approval and installation of two replications of the new Study 90 ‘Restoration of oak dominated forests through application of historic frequencies of periodic fire’ on schedule and below cost
USDA Certificate of Merit, 1999
For exemplary performance during initial year of Southern Station employment
Acclamation letter from the president of the Forestry Resources Association of Indiana, 1991
For being an Outstanding Example of Service to the Public
Commendation letter from the Governor of Indiana, 1991
For dedication to the people of Indiana
Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, 1984
Academic standing
Edmund R. Sawtell Scholarship, 1983
Academics and cooperation
Gamma Sigma Delta, 1983
Biology Honor Society
Kathryn Weisner Scholarship, 1982
Academics and cooperation
Phi Eta Sigma, 1982
Freshman Honor Society
The Ohio State University Scholarship, 1981
Academic standing

Featured Publications and Products


Research Highlights

Red Oak Species Is Especially Vulnerable to Drought Events (2012)
SRS-2012-13 Oak decline and mortality under periodic regional drought in the Ozark Highlands of Arkansas and Missouri