Richard Pouyat: National Program Lead for Air and Soil Quality, USDA Forest Service

American Forests, Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

Richard Pouyat: National Program Lead for Air and Soil Quality, USDA Forest Service


FOREST FRONTIERS

RICHARD POUYAT received his Ph.D in ecology from Rutgers University in 1992, and an M.S. in forest soils and B.S. in forest biology at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 1983 and 1980, respectively. Dr. Pouyat is the National Program Lead for Air and Soil Quality Research for Research & Development at the USDA Forest Service in Washington D.C. He is currently on a detail to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and was recently elected president of the Ecological Society of America (ESA). Dr. Pouyat is an original co-principal investigator of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a longterm Ecological Research site funded by the National Science Foundation.

What led you to want to work for the Forest Service?

The simplest answer - the mission. The mission of the Forest Service is "To sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations," with a motto of "Caring for the land and serving people." And, since the majority of Americans, and now the world's population, live in urban areas, this mission has come to include urban forest ecological systems and their management. I could not have come up with a better mission for the research I do!

As a scientist with training in soil science and ecology, why have you taken time from your research to work in Congress and the White House?

I have always felt that the best available science should be used in the making of public policy with the ultimate goal to benefit people. Through my early experience of working in land management in New York and becoming familiar with environmental problems, such as air and water pollution, I found that the best available science was not always making its way to managers or planners. This was particularly true for cities and surrounding suburbs, where ecosystem services and the use of green infrastructure were not being considered as part of the strategic designs and decisions, nor a tool that urban planners were even aware of in many cases.

Who is your favorite fictional scientist and why?

Although he was technically a "First Officer" of the Starship Enterprise, Mr. Spock was the most impressive "science guy" in the Universe! His lack of emotions (or, at least suppression of them) separated him from biases that sometimes get in the way of logical thinking, or in the case of a scientist, objective thinking. …

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