Chadwick Dearing Oliver

Pinchot Professor Emeritus

  • Affiliated Faculty and Scholars

Professor Oliver’s initial research focused on the basic understanding of how forests develop and how silviculture can be applied to ecological systems most effectively. Much of this work is incorporated in a book he wrote entitled Forest Stand Dynamics (1990, and update edition in 1996) with a former student as coauthor. He has continued this work; during the past decades he has also examined how this understanding can help resolve scientific, technical, and management issues at the landscape and policy levels. He has worked on computer decision support systems at the stand and landscape levels. He has just published a book, Global Resources and the Environment (Cambridge University Press; 2018; 512 pp; Fatma Arf Oliver, coauthor). Professor Oliver has considerable experience advising public and private forest resource organizations in the United States and abroad. His work has taken him to all parts of the United States and to Canada, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Turkey, Armenia, Ukraine, Russia, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand, Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, Austria, Liberia, Kenya, and Australia. Professor Oliver is into phased retirement. He will not teach in spring, 2019. He will teach in autumn, 2019; shortly thereafter, he will retire.

Video: Racing to Save the Amur Tiger

I have been associated with the practice of forestry for as long as I can remember. I have deliberately sought a wide breadth of geographical experience and education in forestry. I have been successful working with field foresters and other resource managers on applied and basic problems in many regions of the United States and in temperate and tropical resources abroad. I hope to continue these efforts. Much of my early research effort was concentrated on understanding how forest stands develop and respond to manipulations (silviculture and forest ecology). I continue research in this subject throughout the temperate and tropical world. I have written and updated a book (with an coauthor) on this subject (Forest Stand Dynamics, 1990, 1996). Activities with management and policy groups then led me to examine forestry at the landscape and broader scales, as well. A gap has been developing for several decades between the disciplines of silviculture on the one hand and forest policy and economics on the other. Many of my recent activities have been to bridge this gap with the use of emerging technologies. I have initiated, managed, and am overseeing development of computerized tools that allow planning, management, and visualization of many forest uses over scales of up to tens of thousands of acres and many decades. The uses include timber, wildlife habitats, carbon sequestration, fire protection. Computer tools developed from this project are available at: We are continuing to update these tools and apply them in many places in the world. These activities then led to my involvement with forest policy, at the regional, national, and international levels. I have testified many times in United States Congressional and Senate hearings and in President Clinton’s Forest Summit, and have Chaired or been a member of Congressional report committees. I have worked in interdisciplinary groups with policy makers, economists, engineers, loggers, local communities, ecologists, wildlife specialists, wood products specialists, large and small landowners, and others. I realize that, to be effective, forestry needs to include all features of the forest, not just timber. And, it needs to broaden to understand enough about urban, industrial, demographic, social, and other issues not traditionally studied. I addition, after 100 years of science becoming more specialized, I have concentrated on integrating scientific disciplines. After first-hand policy experience, I realize that all ecosystems, resources, and people need to be examined for understanding and management in a global context of tradeoffs among values and geographic locations. I have emphasized the concept of “sustainability” being both intergenerational and spatial equity; that is: “Each generation should provide and protect its ‘fair share’ of values.” I have been researching global information to determine global distributions of resources and their behavior. Many of my efforts have been to enfranchise others to create a network of people working in a common direction. I have worked successfully both independently and as part of a team. Because of the nature of my research activities, I am equally comfortable and have dealt successfully with both large and small research budgets. Outreach as a part of research; and I have organized, chaired, and published the proceedings of many symposia, forums, and workshops.

    Teaching an integral part of research, since it demands synthesis and expanding of ideas; consequently, I have sought to maintain teaching experience on many levels.  I presently teach in the classroom, laboratory, and field to graduate and midcareer students, in large and small classes and to native- and non-native-English speaking students.  

    My teaching interests are synergistic with my research interests.  I have tried to integrate many sciences to avoid the historical trend toward academic specialization.  My teaching concentrates on giving students the basic knowledge, the skills to enable them to update this knowledge as a lifelong process, and the leadership skills to apply this knowledge.

     “Global Resources and the Environment” gives graduate students a global understanding of the many aspects, behaviors and interactions of the environment and resources throughout the world–climate, landforms, water, biodiversity, people, forests, agriculture, energy, and consumption.  The course gives a holistic, integrated perspective and how the factors change with time.  It also emphasizes how to access and utilize information on global resources and how to distinguish sound information from unsound.  It integrates global data and an understanding of the processes behind the data.

    “Managing Resources” gives graduate students an understanding of the many tools and techniques used in resource management through lectures and exercises.  The tools and techniques include annual and multi-year “windows of opportunity,” seasonal considerations, calculating sustainability, inventory methods, projection methods, developing and tracking project timelines and budgets, tradeoff analyses, understanding costs & depreciation, continuous quality improvement, adaptive management, and others.  .  Specific resources covered in the course are landforms, water (flooding, irrigation, flow, fisheries), people (age, culture, education, etc.), infrastructure (transportation, land ownerships, etc.), wildlife, grazing & agriculture, timber, biodiversity, hazard protection, recreation, and urban/rural interface.

    “Seminar in Environmental and Natural Resource Leadership” gives graduate students a good grasp of issues that they will face as they move into leadership positions. A leadership position is where a person is responsible for outcomes but needs the help of others to accomplish them.  By having this grasp, and how to deal with the issues, the student will be able to make the transition to leadership more smoothly.  The course includes field trips to New York City and Washington, D.C., to visit financial, foundation, government, ENGO, and private industry leaders.  Course material covers  transactional VS transformational leaders; mental models; communicating; decision analysis; strategic planning (core competencies, segmenting, strategic allies); organizations; addressing conflict, personalities, cultures; groupthink; “ball-park figures;” time lines & budgeting; dealing with mistakes; firing & laying off people; motivating people; keeping and organization moving; transitioning; sunsetting.

    I teach my early specialty in Forest Stand Dynamics as midcareer courses; however, it is extremely well covered as a graduate course by Professor Ann Camp.

    I also coordinate and teach midcareer Executive Courses in Forestry, covering many of the current issues but keeping them in context of the scientific realities and resource limitations.  The course is intended for industry, policy, ENGO, and financial personnel, so that all groups can engage in an informed level of discourse at future encounters.


B.S.(Forestry), The University of The South; M.F.S. Yale University; Ph.D. Yale University