Scientists & Staff

Scott Stoleson

Research Wildlife Biologist
PO Box 267
Irvine, PA, 16329
Phone: 814-563-1080

Contact Scott Stoleson

Current Research

My research examines the impacts of forest management practices on the distribution, abundance, and demography of vertebrate populations, and quantification of the habitat requirements of wildlife communities and species of special concern on the Allegheny Plateau.

  • Assessment of the impact of timber management on the abundance and demography of cerulean warblers.
  • Understanding the frequency and costs/benefits of use of clearcuts by forest interior birds in the post-fledging period.
  • Assessment of impacts of an herbicide tank mix on avian, mammal, and herp communities in Allegheny hardwood forests.
  • Assessment of the effects of prescribed fire on wildlife taxa of concern.

Research Interests

  • Develop silvicultural guidelines for maintaining or enhancing habitat quality for cerulean warblers and other forest bird species of high conservation concern.
  • Develop a wildlife community component to the SILVAH decision support system to predict responses of suites of vertebrate species to silvicultural treatments and to better integrate wildlife habitat as a management goal.
  • Because not all species are of equal conservation concern, standard metrics such as species counts and diversity indices provide only a partial picture of the impacts of management on natural communities. With partners at the U.S. Aviary, I will develop and implement a conservation value metric as a tool to evaluate the contribution of communities based on existing conservation priority, such as the Partners in Flight prioritization scores or heritage rankings
  • Determine the local and cumulative effects of oil and gas development on forest wildlife.

Why This Research is Important

Managers of public lands are mandated to manage for multiple objectives, including maintaining biodiversity. Populations of many forest birds have declined in recent decades, raising concerns about their viability in working forest landscapes. Scientifically sound information on the habitat requirements of these species and how they respond to management practices is essential for managers to maintain these species effectively.


  • Yale University, Ph.D. Wildlife Ecology, 1996
  • Dartmouth College, A.B. Biological Sciences, 1979

Professional Experience

  • Research Wildlife Biologist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Albuquerque, NM 1997 - 2002

Professional Organizations

  • Association of Field Ornithologists (2012 - Current)
  • Cooper Ornithological Society (2012 - Current)
    Grinnell Award Committee
  • Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology (2012 - Current)
    Research and Conservation Committee
  • Pennsylvania Biological Survey (2009 - Current)
    Ornithological Technical Committee
  • Roger Tory Peterson Institute (2007 - Current)
  • The Wildlife Society (2002 - Current)
  • Wilson Ornithological Society (1987 - Current)
  • American Ornithologists' Union (1984 - Current)
  • Ecological Society of America (2002 - 2009)
    Corporate Awards Committee

Awards & Recognition

  • Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology's Earl Poole Award, 2014 "for significant contributions to Pennsylvania's ornithology, and his serving as an important role model for upcoming ornithologists"
  • Partners in Flight Outstanding Research Award (Cerulean Warbler Technical Group, Research Team), 2013 for exceptional contributions to the field of landbird conservation

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

National Research Highlights

Cerulean warbler.

Conservation of Cerulean Warblers Requires Both Dense and Gappy Forest Habitat

Year: 2019

Cerulean warblers, a declining migratory songbird, nest in mature, gappy deciduous forest and management guidelines are based on those nesting requirements. Using radio-tracking of recent fledglings, a scientist at the USDA Forest Service's Northern Research Station and partners discovered that habitats selected by fledglings varied with age and often differed substantially from nesting habitat in that younger, denser areas with abundant saplings were preferred. Conservation of this species must include maintaining these distinct fledgling habitats to be effective.

Pin cherry, (Prunus pensylvanica) is an important source of food for many wildlife species. Scott Stoleson, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

SILVAH’s Gone Wild!

Year: 2016

The SILVAH decision-support tool has provided foresters in the mid-Atlantic region a scientifically based and systematic approach to forest inventory, stand analysis, and silvicultural prescription for decades. Based on user feedback, Forest Service scientists have expanded this program to explicitly consider wildlife attributes and habitat needs in its stand descriptions and management prescriptions.

This black cherry seedling is infected with black cherry leaf spot. Managers and scientists have observed this infection more frequently in recent years. Robert Long, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Changes in Black Cherry on the Allegheny Plateau

Year: 2016

Increased tree mortality, decreased seed production, and seedling growth. Managers and scientists have been observing these changes in black cherry on the Allegheny Plateau and are working together to sharpen the research focus and utilize long-term research to improve forest management.

While deep-forest birds avoided gas-oil wells on the Allegheny National Forest, generalist species (such as the American robin whose nest is visible on this pump jack) increased with increasing well density. Scott Stoleson, USDA Forest Service

Conventional Oil and Gas Development Alters Songbird Communities

Year: 2014

A Forest Service scientist and partners found that as the density of oil and gas wells increased, the amount of core forest habitat decreased sharply. Forest interior species were less abundant at well sites than reference sites and showed a declining trend with increasing well density. The scientists examined the effects of conventional oil and gas development on forest habitat, the abundance of songbird species and guilds, species diversity, and community similarity within and between mixed hardwood and oak forest types at both individual wells and at the 25-hectare (61 acres) scale in forested blocks with no wells, low, or high well density.

A male cerulean warbler gets fitted with a light-detecting geolocator, which will record its location as the bird migrates to its wintering grounds. Nathan Weyandt, USDA Forest Service.

Using New Technology To Track a Rare Songbird During Migration

Year: 2014

The cerulean warbler is a tiny forest bird in big trouble. To better understand where these birds go when they migrate out of their Appalachian breeding grounds, Forest Service scientists and university partners have begun using light-detecting geolocators: tiny backpacks that record the birds' locations. When recovered next spring, these geolocators will reveal where the birds traveled, which will help inform where conservation efforts should be focused.

Many forest songbirds like this scarlet tanager moved from mature forests to regenerating harvested areas after breeding. Scott Stoleson, USDA Forest Service

Timber Harvests Create Beneficial Habitat for Forest Birds

Year: 2013

Many songbird species that require intact, mature forest for breeding have been found by Forest Service researchers to move into young thickets created by timber harvest after breeding. Further, those birds that shift habitats tend to be in better physiological condition than those that do not, indicating such habitats confer fitness benefits. These research results indicate that early-successional habitats created by timber harvests provide an important resource for many mature-forest birds.

One of the common ground beetles Pterostichus melanarius that responded to lepidopteran outbreaks. Todd Ristau, USDA Forest Service

Scientists Study Long-term Response of Ground Beetle Communities to an Operational Herbicide Application

Year: 2013

Ground beetles comprise a large and diverse group of mostly predatory beetles that have long been recognized as a useful barometer of ecosystem health. As part of a long-term, large-scale study of the impacts of an operational herbicide-shelterwood treatment, Forest Service scientists found no treatment response by ground beetles as measured by abundance or diversity. However, their numbers and diversity were strongly correlated with natural outbreaks of forest lepidopterans, an order of insects that include moths and butterflies.

Deer browsing exerts top-down selection on plant communities, which over time ricochets back up the trophic web to affect insects and birds. Forestry Sciences Laboratory, Irvine, PA

Long-Term Differences in Forests With Different Deer Densities

Year: 2011

Thirty years after a study on the effects of deer on forest ecosystems established new forest stands at deer densities ranging from 10 to 64 deer per square mile, Forest Service scientists found that tree species diversity, canopy foliage density, insect density and bird density, all decreased significantly as the deer density at stand initiation increased. If deer densities were high initially, the effects carried over, even if densities were lower later.

Last modified: Thursday, November 2, 2017