Center Directory

The Center for Private Forests includes faculty from across the Penn State University system in education, research, and outreach efforts affecting private forests and owners. Initial involvement will include faculty from the Departments of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education, Agricultural and Biological Engineering and the Department of Ecosystems Sciences and Management in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Faculty wishing to join The Center can declare their interest to the steering committee through the director. Approval of requests for membership is by authority of the steering committee.

Below is a listing of faculty and affiliates who support The Center. These individuals represent a broad cross-section of interests and expertise. While many of these individuals have cooperated on research and outreach projects, they may not have focused on the opportunities defined by The Center. Individual interests and strengths cover policy, rural sociology, ethics, economics, resource management, education, youth, and restoration.

Faculty and Staff

Dr. Muth’s work and research focuses on peer learning to enhance forest stewardship across the Commonwealth. Her studies include investigations into the use of collaborative learning to promote community development, ways to enhance the relationship between natural resources professionals and private forest landowners, cross boundary cooperation, and peer-to-peer learning. She also focuses on outreach to private forest landowners through the Pennsylvania Forest Stewards volunteer program.

Dr. Finley’s research focuses on the human dimensions of natural resources. His studies include investigations into private forest owner attitudes and motivations, the effects of owner decisions on forest retention, forest sustainability, and peer-to-peer learning. He is also the Pennsylvania extension forester and in this capacity he has focuses on outreach to private forest owners and stakeholders. He is the founding co-chair for Penn State’s Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment dual-title intercollege graduate degree program.

Theodore R. Alter's research, teaching, and outreach activities focus on issues of public choice, democracy, and social and institutional processes on a wide range of community issues. Dr. Alter teaches courses on institutional analysis, power, conflict, and community decision making, and conflict framing and resolution. Much of his work and the work of his research team – which includes research dealing with social capital, broadband, entrepreneurship, innovation, and the role of public engagement in land grant universities - centers on how culture and institutional structure and power have produced conflict, inhibited collaboration, or framed issues in a way that affects the way public decisions are made. Dr. Alter strives for the integration and equal weighting of local and expert knowledge in understanding these issues, which directly involve and impact public action and perceptions around forest resources in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Brittingham's research focuses on avian ecology, specifically the effects of habitat fragmentation on bird populations, incorporating wildlife needs into forest management plans, and managing for wildlife on private lands. Recent projects include studying the factors influencing habitat quality and productivity of Pennsylvania's forest songbirds, and the ecology and management of urban roosting crows.

Leland Glenna's teaching and research focus is on the role of science and technology in natural resource and environmental policy making and the social and ethical implications of democratizing science and technology research. He has conducted research and published articles on a range of environmental and natural resources issues, including soil conservation policy, watershed management, alternative energy policy, and biotechnology.

Dr. Grace’s work focuses on public policy as it relates to private forest lands within the Commonwealth. Specific areas of focus include the protection and sustainable management of private forestland through the use of various forest certification systems, improved land use planning, and the use of BMPs during the development of Marcellus gas production.

Dave's is an expert in Silviculture, Forest Vegetation Management, Herbicides, White-tailed Deer, Forest Ecology, Timber Sales and Youth Environmental Education.

Dr. San Julian’s research has been in Human Dimensions and Wildlife Damage Management. He Co-Directs the Northeast Wildlife Damage Management Cooperative and is currently serving as the Past Chair of The Wildlife Society’s Wildlife Damage Management Working Group. As one of the extension wildlife specialist, he works with landowners to enhance wildlife habitat and control damage to crops and property by nuisance wildlife. He is on the Planning Committee for the Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow program and an instructor for student and agency training workshops.

Dr. Luloff teaches, conducts research, and writes about the impacts of rapid social change, as a result of sociodemographic shifts, on the natural and human resource bases of the community. Working with Finley, he lead the development of and co-chairs the the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment dual-title, inter-college graduate degree program at Penn State. He is a co-founder and current Executive Director of the International Association for Society and Natural Resources.

Dr. Mahan has a Ph.D. in Wildlife Science. Her research interests include the study of biodiversity in threatened ecosystems, the effects of human-modified landscapes on wildlife, and behavioral ecology of squirrels. Dr. Mahan has served on the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Wildlife Society and The ClearWater Conservancy and she currently is president of the Pennsylvanaia Biological Survey. She teaches core courses in biology and environmental studies.

Dr. McDill’s research focuses on the sustainable management of forests, including both public and private forestland. His research on private forest lands has emphasized forest taxation and forest landowner knowledge, attitudes, motivations and behaviors. Dr. McDill also develops growth and yield models, which are useful for forest management planning. Recent work has focused on understanding the potential impact of market trends, such as growth in biomass markets, and environmental trends, such as climate change, on the management of forest lands of all types.

Dr. Messina spent the majority of his research career on problems of interest to private forest landowners. Topics ranged from promoting both natural and artificial regeneration on difficult sites, to augmenting forest productivity, to assessing the impact of forest harvesting on a host of ecosystem processes. He addressed many Extension-sponsored landowner workshops and field trips through the years, wrote articles for landowners' newsletters, and served for several years on the board of directors of the Texas Forestry Association, a 3,100-member group comprised of primarily private forest landowners. He received this group's 1996 Research Award in recognition of his work on private forest lands.

Dr. Padt has more than 25 years experience in community and regional environmental planning as a researcher, educator, policymaker, and consultant. He received his Ph.D. in Political Sciences of the Environment from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands in 2007.

Dr. Smith's teaching and research focuses on forestry and natural resources programs for youth, adult volunteerism in conservation and environmental education, and forest stewardship on private forest lands. He is also a state Extension Specialist for Cooperative Extension and holds a joint appointment with the Department of Agriculture and Extension Education. His primary responsibilities in these roles include statewide leadership for 4-H & youth programming in natural resources, natural sciences curriculum development, graduate student advising, and program evaluation.

Dr. Steiner's research focuses in part on solving the problems of oak regeneration in Pennsylvania's forests, and he is active in restoration of the American chestnut. He serves on the Forest Timber and Ecosystem Management Advisory Committees of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources, the advisory committee to Purdue's Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center, the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Council of Professional Foresters, and the board of directors of The American Chestnut Foundation. He is also director of The Arboretum at Penn State.

Dr. Stout is the former Research Project Leader for a four-state tem of 13 forest scientist, of whom six focus their work primarily in Pennsylvania forests. The Research Team has cooperated with Penn State Forestry Extension for more than 30 years to provide training in sustainable forestry to natural resource professionals in the state, including those who provide services to private forests owners. She is personally involved in many collaborative studies that represent the Center’s focus, and has special interests in technology transfer, deer impact on forest ecosystems and silviculture.


Dr. Metcalf’s work has centered on the human dimensions of natural resources, specifically on issues of private forest ownership. His doctoral work explored the sampling and estimation techniques employed in studies of private forest landowners, especially those of the National Woodland Owner Survey. His continued research has focused on decision-making processes used by landowners, constraints on availability of private renewable resources, and parcelization of private forestland.


In the past 28-plus years, the PA Forest Stewards volunteer program has trained well over 700 volunteers, with over 500 active today. A key component of this federally-funded program is the im-pact of these volunteers on unengaged woodland owners. Every two years, we send a survey to our active volunteers to measure, among other things, their outreach to others. Abby’s research will take a much deeper, more detailed look at the program’s impact. She will examine the receptibility of education and outreach from PA Forest Stewards to other landowners. And, she will examine what, if any, of the stewardship principles learned in these encounters are adopted by the landowners that Stewards are reaching.