Kurt von Kleist worked as an applied ecologist performing environmental assessments across an array of ecosystems with the U.S. National Park Service, Florida Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Forest Service prior to becoming a project manager with a consulting firm in western Montana. After ten years planning, developing, and implementing restoration projects in the northern Rocky Mountains, he took his skill set abroad to improve restoration outcomes in tropical forests. His current interests include bridging gaps between policy, planning, and implementation via extension and outreach in order to effectively scale-up forest restoration and better attain the biodiversity objectives inherent in global reforestation efforts. Kurt will soon finish a Ph.D. from the Tropical Forests and People Research Centre at University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. His research seeks to understand the social, technical, and operational factors that limit the integration of planting strategies aimed at biodiversity recovery into large-scale reforestation initiatives.
Twenty years of progressive experience and responsibility in applied ecology, resource management and ecosystem restoration. The first part of my career I worked as a field biologist performing biological surveys and assessing the impacts of resource extraction and unsustainable development. Mid-career I changed my focus to ecological restoration to improve degraded lands. An interest in tropical forests and the increasing threats placed on those systems has spurred me to take my skills abroad. I have now turned my attention to build the capacity of agencies and organizations undertaking reforestation activities. My current research looks at aspects influencing the use of more native species in reforestation and the integration of biodiversity restoration into large-scale tree planting programs.
Ph.D. (focus in tropical forest restoration), University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, July 2015 – present
- International Postgraduate Scholarship Award
M.Sc. in Biology (focus in wetland ecosystem dynamics), Florida International University, Miami, Florida, 1993.
- Graduate Teaching Assistantship Award, 1990-1993
- Taught undergraduate labs: Basic Biology, Ecology, and Plant Taxonomy
B.S. in Biology (focus in community ecology), Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Clarion, Pennsylvania, 1990.
- Teaching assistant: Plant identification, vegetation surveys, and data collection methodologies
Doctoral Research, Sunshine Coast, Australia
- Developed and carried out case study investigations to determine how well biodiversity objectives, explicit in many large-scale reforestation initiatives, are being attained.
- Established that of thousands of reforestation projects undertaken in the Philippines, only a minute fraction can be classed as directed at biodiversity rehabilitation
- Determined that poor community engagement, overzealous targets, and poor organization hinder the tailoring of planting regimes and leads to homogeneous implementation approaches
- Verified that high-diversity nurseries, fundamental to tropical forest restoration, are limited by a lack of restoration-specific policies and standards to guide practitioners.
Restoration Coordinator, Amazon State University (University Estatal Amazónica), Puyo, Ecuador, 2013 – 2015.
- Developed a restoration program to assess the early silviculture of native tree species and investigate planting regimes that accelerate forest recovery in degraded lands in Ecuador’s east-central foothills.
- Created and maintained a tree nursery to administer germination trials and document early growth.
- Designed experimental methodology to evaluate seedling performances in several habitats.
- Trained nursery staff, contracted planting crews, and oversaw student volunteers.
Field Projects Manager, Watershed Consulting, LLC, Missoula, Montana, U.S., 2002 – 2012.
- Carried out biophysical assessments in various habitats, developed recommendations to improve damaged natural systems, and oversaw the implementation of ecological restoration for forest rehabilitation, wildlife enhancement, wetland mitigation, and erosion control.
- Submitted bid packages and collaborated with staff members in proposal development.
- Prepared staffing requirements, delegated work tasks, and supervised junior team members.
- Performed construction oversight and quality assurance tasks on a wide range of field projects.
- Led field crews in the implementation of restoration measures to recover degraded lands.
- Co-managed a native plant nursery, supervised staff, and ordered materials.
Key Projects with Watershed Consulting:
- Smelter Hills Restoration, Anaconda, MT. Provided assessment, design and implementation for restoring lands damaged by a century of heavy metals and acidic smelter emissions. 2009-2012
- Riparian Restoration, (Bull River), Noxon, MT. Streambank and floodplain revegetation and stabilization, controlled exotic grasses and re-established Cedar forest. 2010
- Montana Highway 83 Erosion Control. Designed and built bio-engineered structures to stabilize and revegetate an eroding cut slope. 2009
Watershed Consulting granted leaves of absence to participate in the following special projects:
Tropical Forest Restoration: Cotundo, Ecuador, Winter 2012.
Assisted in the development of reforestation plans through working with the Ministry of Environment and landowners. Oversaw staff and volunteers to plan, implement, maintain, and monitor restoration plantings.
Tropical Reforestation Internship: Reserva Bijagual – Finca Nacientes, Costa Rica, Summer 2010.
Studied lower montane tropical forest restoration, focused on planting strategies, species selection, maintenance requirements, successional dynamics, and socio-ecological considerations.
S & K Environmental, LLC, Arlee, Montana, U.S., Summer 2009.
Logistics Coordinator – Managed a logistics crew to create a temporary nursery and then receive, maintain, and distribute over 1.2 million plants on one of the nation’s largest wetland creation projects.
- Coordinated with stakeholders on ecological objectives, planting regime design, quality assurance, design modifications, schedules and deadlines.
- Planned work activities, supplied equipment, developed safety briefs, and provided oversight to three team leaders, subcontractors, and a 40- person planting crew.
Reclamation Research Group, Bozeman, Montana, U.S., Summer/Autumn 2008.
Plant Ecologist – Ground truthed aerial photographs to categorize the severity and extent of arsenic and copper mine tailings deposited along the upper Clark Fork River corridor superfund site.
- Surveyed and cataloged riparian area vegetation and exotic plant populations over large landscapes
Early Career Positions and Accomplishments
High School Science Teacher, Lower Yukon School District, Mountain Village, Alaska, U.S. 2000 – 2012.
Taught science courses and other core classes and electives for grades 9-12: Biology, Ecology, Earth Science, Algebra, English, and Art.
Environmental Impact Reviewer, Florida Department of Transportation, Miami, Florida, U.S. 1995 – 1998.
Environment manager for roadway and bridge construction projects. Directed the impact assessment process, prepared NEPA documentation, provided agency coordination, and managed consultants.
Forestry Technician, U.S. Forest Service, Kalispell, Montana, U.S. 1997.
Led crews to conduct Forest Inventory and Analysis surveys throughout Montana to assess timber resources and forest health. Established permanent plots in remote areas with orienteering techniques.
Biological Scientist, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, U.S. 1994 – 1995.
Oversaw research projects to assess environmental disturbances and better manage everglade aquatic communities. Coordinated staff to complete field surveys, analyzed data, and prepared reports.
Biological Technician, Everglades National Park, Homestead, Florida, U.S. 1992.
Managed the control of exotic plant populations and tracked the effectiveness of eradication protocols. Trained teams in the collection and analysis of ecological data.
- International Postgraduate Scholarship. 2015-2019
- Convocatoria Interna, 2014. An internal grant from the Amazon State University in Puyo, Ecuador to support restoration research at their agricultural station near Santa Clara.
- The Kawayanan community: Team member of an on-going program to integrate food production and biodiversity rehabilitation into community-based reforestation – Kawayanan, Biliran, Philippines.
- Pattee Creek community: Trained volunteers to revegetate streambanks in their neighborhood – Missoula, MT. USA.
- Spanish – advanced (low)
- German – novice (high)
Training and Certifications
- Basic First Aid
- Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response
- Army Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation
- Society of Ecological Restoration World Conference, Foz de Iguacu, Brazil, 2017
- IUFRO Small-scale forestry, Buderim, Queensland, Australia. 2015
- Society of Wetland Scientists annual symposium, Lake Placid, NY, US. 2002
Kurt von Kleist, John Herbohn, Jack Baynes, Nestor Gregorio, and Anatolio Polinar. (In prep). FLR in the Philippines: is the National Greening program on track to reach its biodiversity objectives?
Kurt von Kleist, John Herbohn, Jack Baynes, and Nestor Gregorio. (In press). How improved governance can help achieve the biodiversity conservation goals of the Philippine National Greening Program Land Use Policy.
Steven F. Oberbauer, Kurt von Kleist, Kevin R. T. Whelan and Suzanne Koptur. (1996). Effects of Hurricane Andrew on Epiphyte Communities on Cypress Domes within Everglades National Park. Ecology 77(3).