Forest Ecosystems In A Changing World

The Fernow LTREB supports the activities of seasoned researchers and trains a new generation of scientists through the Fernow Graduate Fellowship and the Fernow Undergraduate Summer Internship Programs.

The Fernow Graduate Fellows conduct their graduate research at the Fernow and help mentor our undergraduate summer interns. Currently there are two Fernow Graduate Fellows - Mark Burnham & Brooke Eastman.  One Graduate Fellow (Zach Fowler) completed his Ph.D. in 2014 & one completed his Ph.D in 2106 (Chris Walter).

The Fernow Undergraduate Summer Internship Program supports 2-3 undergraduate students each year. Summer interns conduct individual research projects related to the interests of their graduate student mentors. In addition, summer interns shadow Forest Service personnel on several occasions in order to learn about life as a government scientist.

To date the Fernow Fellowship & Internship Programs have supported the training of 5 graduate students and 40 undergraduate students.

Principal Investigators

PJ at signDr. William Peterjohn - I have been on the faculty of the Biology Department at West Virginia University since 1993. Most of my research is currently conducted at the Fernow Experimental Forest and examines how anthropogenic changes in our environment alter important processes in forest ecosystems. Of particular interest is whether chronic additions of nitrogen by acid rain have exceeded the capacity of some forests to retain and utilize this nutrient. Specifically, my students and I are trying to determine whether differences in tree species accounts for the different responses observed in forests receiving similar amounts of nitrogen deposition and what factors may constrain forest productivity in a nitrogen-rich world. By understanding these processes, better forest management practices may be developed. Results from some of our work at the Fernow were included in the first volume of Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, which is a peer-reviewed publication of educational materials by the Ecological Society of America.

MB AdamsDr. Mary Beth Adams - I have worked for  Forest Service research and Development since 1989. I serve as a Research Soil Scientist with the Northern Research Station in Morgantown, West Virginia.  My research has focused on sustaining forest productivity through understanding soil processes, particularly nutrient cycling. Results of my research on air pollution effects on forests were used by legislators in drafting Clean Air legislation.

Collaborative Investigators

GilliamDr. Frank Gilliam - I have been a member of the faculty at Marshall University since 1990 and teach courses in ecology and plant ecology. Most of what I do lies at the boundary between terrestrial plant communities and ecosystems. I am particularly interested in the movement and cycling of plant nutrients within terrestrial ecosystems. Directly related to this are interests in fire ecology and the effects of fire on nutrient cycling and on plants and soils in fire-prone ecosystems. Also related to my ecosystem approach to ecological research is an interest in atmospheric deposition and precipitation chemistry. This interest has led to the study of pollutant conditions (acid deposition and ozone) in forested areas. My interests in plant communities are focused predominantly on forest community ecology. I am particularly interested in secondary succession and the species dynamics of the herbaceous layer of forests, as well as the variety of biotic and abiotic factors that influence species composition and change within this vegetation stratum.

Fernow Graduate Fellows

ZachDr. Zach Fowler (Graduated 2014) - My Ph.D. research at the Fernow was focused on understanding the extent to which the cascading impacts of nitrogen deposition can alter the soils, plants, and herbivores of a regenerating forest. I am currently the director of the Core Arboretum at West Virginia University.


ChrisDr. Chris Walter (Graduated 2016) - My Ph.D. research used long-term experiments at the Fernow to examine whether enhanced nitrogen inputs can affect the structure and composition of forest vegetation, and its susceptability to severe storm events.  I am currently a post-doc in the lab of Dr. Sarah Hobbie at the University of Minnesota.


MarkMark Burnham - (Graduated 2017) My Ph.D research focused on understanding how the uptake of different forms of nitrogen by plants may influence stream-water chemistry. I also used long-term data from the Fernow to determine what the isotopic signals contained in tree rings can tell us about past changes in nutrient availabililty.


BrookeBrooke Eastman - I am a Ph.D. student at West Virginia University, and will be studying how nitrogen inputs affect belowground carbon allocation and storage. A special focus will be estimating soil respiration and its components.



NicNicholas Shaw - I am a Ph.D. student at West Virginia University, and will be using modeling and advanced time-series analyses to better understand several striking patterns that are present in the long-term stream chemistry data at the Fernow. I also plan to examine what effect, if any, long-term N additions have had on glomalin-related protein levels in forest soils.




Fernow Undergraduate Summer Interns