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Research Opportunity in Forest Economics and Policy

*Applications will be reviewed on a rolling-basis.

USFS Office/Lab and Location: A graduate/postgraduate research opportunity in forest economics and policy is available with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Southern Research Station, Forest Economics and Policy Research Work Unit, located at the Forestry Science Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, in the Raleigh/Durham area. Southern Research Station is currently implementing a maximal telework policy in response to the current coronavirus pandemic.

As long as this is the case, the participant will be expected to participate in research and other mentoring activities 100% remotely. If and when SRS returns to normal in-office operations, the project will be based at the Forestry Science Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, NC.

The project will provide opportunities to learn from Research Economists and Research Foresters in the USFS Southern Research Station, and interact with USFS staff in the National Forest System. The Southern Research Station is part of the Nation's largest forestry research organization—USFS Research and Development—the leading organization for research on natural resource management and sustainability in the United States.
The mission of the Forest Economics and Policy Research Work Unit, located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, is to evaluate legal, tax, social, and economic influences on forest resource management and investment, and to develop guidelines that will support the sustainable management of forests.

Research Project: Timber sales from National Forests help achieve numerous ecological and economic forest management objectives, including wildlife habitat enhancement, fuel load reduction to mitigate future wildfire, and jobs in local communities. However, some timber sales that are planned and advertised end up receiving no bids from prospective timber buyers. When these “no-bid sales” happen, the National Forest System (NFS) loses opportunities for ecological and economic benefit, and incurs additional cost in re-planning and re-advertising. The research participant will contribute to data management and analysis in order to assess factors influencing no-bids sales, and identify potential solutions. The participant will utilize data obtained from various sources: administrative data on timber appraisals and contracts, survey data from NFS personnel, geographic information systems data on sawmill and pulp mill locations and other variables, and various other sources.

It is anticipated that data management and analysis for the project will involve utilizing the following approaches: joining/merging large data sets, cleaning and manipulating data, summarizing variables of interest, and creating statistical/econometric models. The participant will interpret results and provide input into formulating metrics to track future progress and strategies to improve outcomes. In addition to utilizing these approaches, the participant will practice communication through development of presentations and written products such as briefing papers and manuscripts.

Learning Objectives
  • Practice data management and analytics.
  • Extend practical experience of quantitative research methods, including statistical models.
  • Understand public land management in the United States.
  • Understand how markets, policies, and program implementation affect achievable forestland management activities.
  • Practice scientific communication and writing skills.

Mentor The mentor for this opportunity is Gregory Frey ( If you have questions about the nature of the research please contact the mentor.

Anticipated Appointment Start Date: June 1, 2021.  Start date is flexible and will depend on a variety of factors.

Appointment LengthThe appointment will initially be for three months, but may be extended upon recommendation of USFS and is contingent on the availability of funds.

Level of ParticipationThe appointment is full-time.

Participant StipendThe participant will receive a monthly stipend ranging from $5,000 - $6,000 commensurate with educational level and experience. A supplement to offset the cost of the individual health insurance plan offered through ORAU will also be provided. Relocation expenses will not be reimbursed.

Citizenship RequirementsThis opportunity is available to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), and foreign nationals. Non-U.S. citizen applicants should refer to the Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens Details page of the program website for information about the valid immigration statuses that are acceptable for program participation.

ORISE InformationThis program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and USFS. Participants do not become employees of USDA, USFS, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits. Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. Health insurance can be obtained through ORISE.

Questions: Please visit our Program Website. After reading, if you have additional questions about the application process please email and include the reference code for this opportunity.