Scientists & Staff

Christel Kern, Rhinelander, WI, October 2019

Christel Kern

Team Leader / Research Forester
5985 Highway K
Rhinelander, WI, 54501-9128
Phone: 715-362-1123

Contact Christel Kern

Resume (159 KB PDF)

Current Research

  • Assisted migration for productive future forests
  • Climate-adaptive stragegy models for forest management
  • Mixedwood and mixed species forest ecology and silviculture
  • Long-term effects of harvest gap size on tree regeneration and plant communities
  • Long-term effects of cutting methods on old and second-growth northern hardwoods
  • Restoration using fire, harvest, and mechical treatments to restore barrens, savannahs, woodlands, and forests of northern dry pine forests
  • Role of microtopography in northern hardwood tree growth, regeneration, and diversity
  • Role of tree microhabitats in managed forests
  • Seedbank potential for restoration and adaptation of forest ecosystems

Research Interests

  • Integrated, multi-disciplinary research
  • Collaborative research-management studies
  • Long-term field studies
  • Conventional, ecological, and adaptive silviculture
  • Mesic and dry forest ecosystems

Past Research

  • Oregon white oak silviculture
  • Fine-root dynamics of trees

Why This Research is Important

The scope of Dr. Kern's research is national to international, as the general ecological and silvicultural principles that are examined and tested are applicable globally, but the findings are also highly relevant across the Great Lakes region, where much of the research is conducted. Her research is complex and on-going, because driving factors (e.g., climate) and societal values (e.g., management objectives) continue to change, tree lifespans exceed a scientist's career, and multiple lines and scales of investigation are required. Consequently, she must lead multiple studies with various team, disciplines, and scales to find solutions. Her collaborators include research and managers from a variety of sectors, including government agencies, universities, tribes, industry, and non-profit organizations at local, state, national, and international levels. The expected impacts of this research will advance the science of silviculture and applied forest ecology, inform policy regulations and management guides, such as environmental analysis, silvicultural handbooks, and harvest prescriptions. In addition, the work provides a diverse range of findings that are key to planning and sustaining a continuum of goods and services in managed forests globally. Dr. Kern's goal is to develop and interpret scientific data to achieve optimal results that matter to people and sustain forests and support the mission of the Forest Service.


  • University of Minnesota, Ph.D. Natural Resource Science and Management, 2011
  • University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, M.S. Natural Resources, 2000
  • University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, B.S. Biology, 1997

Professional Experience

  • Certified Silviculturist, USDA Forest Service, Region 9 2006 - Current

Professional Organizations

  • Arbeitsgemeinschaft Naturgemäße Waldwirtschaft (2014 - Current)
  • Society of American Foresters (SAF) (2001 - Current)

Awards & Recognition

  • National Silviculture Excellence Award, 2022 USDA Forest Service
  • Silvicultural Prize, 2018 For publication of "Challenges facing gap-based silviculture and possible solutions for mesic northern forests in North America" Forestry 90:4-17. Institute of Chartered Foresters

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Tribal forestry and western science come together to sustain forests for future generations

Year: 2017

The Menominee Nation uses available science, local field testing, and professional experience to formulate an adaptive approach within their way of life and principle to maintain natural resources for generations to come. Recently, a Forest Service scientist helped tribal foresters monitor sustainability of their common forestry practices. The collaboration has been a success due to the group’s diverse backgrounds as researchers and managers, tribal member and non-members, generations old and young, and nations near and far.

Samples from increment borer shows the growth of a tree.  Does increasing CO2 affect the maximum number of trees that can be sustained in a forest?  If it does then all forest density management guides need a revision.

Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration alters forest stand development, so do management guidelines need revision?

Year: 2017

A decade ago, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide was at the heart of the Aspen Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment Experiment. Forest Service researchers in Rhinelander, Wisc., wanted to know if these increases affected forest growth. What they discovered raises the possibility that principles of stand development and size-density relationships are already obsolete.

Examples of mixedwood types in eastern North America: A) shortleaf pine – oak forest in southern Missouri (credit: Missouri Department of Conservation); B) white pine – red oak forest in southern Maine (credit: Justin Waskiewicz); C) spruce – fir – hardwood forest in Quebec (credit: Patricia Raymond); D) hemlock – hardwood forest in northern Wisconsin. Kate Gerndt.

Hardwood-Softwood Mixtures for Future Forests in Eastern North America: Assessing Suitability to Projected Climate Change

Year: 2016

Despite growing interest in management strategies for climate change adaptation, there are few methods for assessing the ability of stands to endure or adapt to projected future climates. Forest Service scientists developed a means for assigning climate “compatibility” and “adaptability” scores to stands for assessing the suitability of tree species for projected climate scenarios. They used these scores to determine if mixed hardwood-softwood stands or “mixedwoods” were better suited to projected future climates than pure hardwood or pure softwood stands.

Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2022