Kim Steiner, Ph.D.

Kim Steiner, Ph.D.

  • Professor Emeritus of Forest Biology
301 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802


  • B.S., Colorado State University (1970)
  • M.S., Michigan State University (1971)
  • Ph.D., Michigan State University (1975)

Academic Interests

Silviculture and ecology of mixed-oak forests; tree growth and form; forest genetics.

Affiliated Programs

Graduate faculty, Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology .

Courses Taught


Professional Affiliation (recent and current)

Board of Directors and Senior Science Advisor, The American Chestnut Foundation

Board of Directors, Society of American Foresters

Educational Policy Review Committee, Society of American Foresters

Ecosystem Management Advisory Committee, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Silviculture and Timber Advisory Committee, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Editor, Northern Journal of Applied Forestry

Recent Research/Educational Projects

Regeneration of Mixed-Oak Forests in the Central Appalachians. Almost one out of every ten American tree species is an oak, a group that comprises about 60 native species. Oaks are nearly ubiquitous and often dominant in eastern U.S. forests, where they have extraordinary importance both economically and ecologically – in the latter instance because of the large number of vertebrate and invertebrate species that depend upon oaks in whole or in part for sustenance. We have documented a decline in oak dominance in the East in recent decades, a worrisome trend that appears to have no precedent from pre-Columbian times until now. The main focus of my research is to understand these changes in forest composition and develop management tools that can be used to reverse or modify them. This work is based mainly on a longitudinal study of the development of over 50 forest stands from immediately before harvest and forward through the first two decades of regeneration and growth.

Restoration of American Chestnut. Penn State is a partner with The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) in breeding a blight-resistant American chestnut and (eventually) restoring the species to its former dominance in Appalachian forests. TACF's Northcentral Regional Breeding Coordinator is based here, and Pennsylvania's statewide breeding program is coordinated out of rented office space on campus. I have no direct involvement in these activities, but I have applied my background in plant breeding and quantitative genetics in providing advice and guidance to the national plan for breeding and restoration. I served as the "science" Vice-Chair of the TACF Board of Directors from 2007-2012, Chair of the Board from 2012-2015, and Senior Science Advisor until present.

The Arboretum at Penn State. The Arboretum is an interdisciplinary teaching and research facility located on 370 acres of land bordering the main campus at University Park. My role in this project began in 1995 as chair of a committee of faculty and staff advocates for an arboretum at the University. I became "director" in 1999 with the expectation (or hope) that the University would attract private funding for the project. In 2001 we successfully applied for grants to convert 1.1 miles of abandoned railroad bed to a bicycle/pedestrian path through the Arboretum property, and in 2005 we planted the Arboretum's “witness tree." However, the Arboretum did not truly exist until 2009 when Phase I was completed with the installation of a building and 25 acres of landscape and gardens. Since then a children's garden has been added and a 6-acre prairie reconstruction begun, and we are currently (2018) planning for the construction of a pollinators' and a bird garden. Conceptual plans have been developed for a fountain garden and a cultural district complex that would include classes, event space, Arboretum offices, museum display and storage space, a planetarium, a conservatory, a café, and a gift shop. To date, the University has raised $30 million in private funding for the Arboretum.

Selected Publications

Steiner, K.C., B.S. Stein, and J.C. Finley. 2018. A test of the delayed oak dominance hypothesis at mid-rotation in developing upland stands. Forest Ecology and Management 408: 1-8.

Steiner, K.C., J.W. Westbrook, F.V. Hebard, L.L. Georgi, W.A. Powell, and S.F. Fitzsimmons. 2017. Rescue of American chestnut with extraspecific genes following its destruction by a naturalized pathogen. New Forests 48:317–336.

Domingue, J.J., J. Berkebile, K. Steiner, L.P. Hall, K.R. Cloonan, D. Lance, and T.C. Baker.  2016. Host condition effects upon Agrilus planipennis (Coleoptera Buprestidae) captures on decoy-baited branch traps. European Journal of Entomology 113: 438-445.

Wheeler, N.C., K.C. Steiner, S.E. Schlarbaum, and D.B. Neale. 2015. The evolution of forest genetic and tree improvement research in the United States. Journal of Forestry 113: 500-510.

Campbell, A.J., K.C. Steiner, J.C. Finley, and L. Leites. 2015. Limitations on regeneration potential following even-aged harvests in mixed-oak stands. Forest Science 61: 874-881.

Domingue, M.J., D.P. Pulsifer, A. Lakhtakia, J. Berkebile, K.C. Steiner, J. P. Lelito, L. P. Hall, and T.C. Baker. 2015. Detecting emerald ash borers (Agrilus planipennis) using branch traps baited with 3D-printed beetle decoys. Journal of Pest Science 88: 267-279.

Abrams, M.D. and K.C. Steiner. 2013. Long-term seedling height growth and compositional changes following logging and wildfire in a central Pennsylvania oak forest. Castanea 78: 256-265.

Zenner, E.K., D.J. Heggenstaller, P.H. Brose, J.E. Peck, and K.C. Steiner.  2012.  Reconstructing the competitive dynamics of mixed-oak neighborhoods.  Canadian Journal of Forest Research 42:1714-1723.

Fei, S., L. Liang, F.L. Paillet, K.C. Steiner, J. Fang, Z. Shen, Z. Wang, and F.V. Hebard. 2012. Distribution and climatic limits for chestnut (Castanea) species. Diversity and Distributions 18: 754–768.