Monitoring Forest Soil Moisture for a Changing World


MTRI and the USDA Forest Service hosted a facilitated workshop on Monitoring Forest Soil Moisture for a Changing World in Ann Arbor, MI, on May 15-17, 2018. Speakers and participants from several universities, USDA Forest Service, Michigan DNR, NASA, Canadian Center for Remote Sensing, USDA ARS, National Snow Ice and Ice Date Center, Colorado Climate Center, and USDA NRCS were invited to attend. Dr. Steve McNulty (USDA Forest Service) gave the plenary overview presentation, and 18 informative presentations followed.

The two and a half day workshop facilitated discussion among research scientists in forestry networks with stakeholders and federal, state, and private natural resource managers on contemporary and emerging soil moisture research and management issues, data availability, and data priorities. The overarching goal of this workshop was to develop a new strategic approach of research and monitoring on soil moisture issues for forest areas of the United States.

Specific objectives were to:

  1. discuss priority questions about soil moisture thresholds in forested lands that may indicate timely management actions;
  2. outline and discuss currently available and emerging soil moisture data; and
  3. outline opportunities to integrate and synthesize data sets from a suite of existing agro-forestry research sites with contemporary digital environmental sensor data.

Breakout Sessions:

The workshop participants split into three groups on Day 2 and Day 3 of the workshop to address and strategize the key issues of forest soil moisture monitoring. Read the Breakout Questions.

May 15-17, 2018 Workshop Agenda:

Click Here

Optional Data Tutorial:

A hands-on, half-day data tutorial immediately followed the conclusion of the workshop focusing on the NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission and data. The SMAP mission provides high quality global soil moisture, brightness temperature and freeze/thaw state valuable to a wide range of government agencies, researchers, and private sector. Thematic applications of SMAP data products include droughts and wildfires, floods and landslides, agricultural productivity, weather and climate forecasting, etc. During the SMAP tutorial, members of the SMAP Science Team and the NISDC DAAC (Data Center) walked the class through instruction and samples for how to work with the data and apply it to their thematic area of interest. Participants learned how to access, apply, and overcome challenges of working with SMAP data.

SMAP Data Tutorial Agenda

Workshop Organizing Committee

Lead - Liza Jenkins, MTRI
Lead - Duncan McKinley,
USDA Forest Service

Laura Bourgeau-Chavez, MTRI
Nancy French, MTRI
David Hollinger, USDA Forest Service
Evan Kane, Michigan Tech Univ.
Larry Laing, USDA Forest Service
Chelcy Miniat, USDA Forest Service
Richard Pouyat, USDA Forest Service, Retired, U. Delaware
Michael Strobel, USDA NRCS
Cynthia West, USDA Forest Service
Bonnie Wyatt, USDA Forest Service

Contact Information:

For questions about the workshop findings, please contact Liza Jenkins at or (734) 913.6869 or Duncan McKinley at or (443) 822-6954

Hosted by:

The USDA Forest Service and
Michigan Technological University


Cynthia West, Ph.D.
Director, Office of Sustainability and Climate
USDA Forest Service

Liza Jenkins
Research Scientist

Evan Kane, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, SFRES
Michigan Technological University




Workshop Location:
Michigan Tech Research Institute
Kiva Conference Room
3600 Green Ct., Ann Arbor, MI 48105