Doug Allen

An unconventional NYFOA member, Doug Allen does not own a forested property in any region of New York. However, virtually every member of NYFOA knows of and has benefited from Doug’s involvement. Doug uses his expert knowledge of forest entomology to write informational articles promoting woodland health. An active member of NYFOA for over eighteen years, Doug is publishing his 100th article in this issue of the NY Forest Owner magazine, most of which concern forest insects and their impacts on forest properties. Of his family members, however, Doug is the only one with a significant interest in forest entomology. Barbara, his wife, is a retired first grade teacher and seamstress, while Mark, their oldest son, is an environmental engineer in Colorado and Matt is the Vice President, Alternative Investment Partners LP at Morgan Stanley in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

Like many young children, Doug collected various insects as a young boy, though he wasn’t especially enthralled with the subject area until he took an entomology course at the University of Maine, where he pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry. It was this course which peaked his interest in forest entomology, largely due to the instructor’s ability to seamlessly relate forests and insects. Deciding to pursue the subject, Doug continued his studies at the University of Maine and received a Master’s in Entomology. Afterward, Doug left the northeast to attend the University of Michigan, where he graduated with a PhD in Forest Entomology in 1968.

Originally, Doug was interested in moving to Northern New England or out West after graduation. Though he was offered a research position with the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico, Doug had already accepted a teaching-research position at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) at SUNY Syracuse. Once in New York, however, he discovered the state’s beauty and has been there ever since.

During his 37 years as an ESF professor, Doug divided his time between teaching and research. He not only taught Forest Entomology, but was also the professor of a course regarding biological controls and another on the population dynamics of forest insects. As part of the biological control course, Doug instilled the importance of studying the predators of exotic and native species in order to determine and encourage their effect as natural controls. According to Doug, understanding and interrupting the biology of a forest pest as a control approach is preferable to relying solely on synthetic organic chemicals, though there are times when the use of a chemical or bacterial insecticide is necessary. In such instances, however, insecticides must be used appropriately: having the maximum effect on the target insect and minimum effect on all others.

Two years after becoming a professor at ESF, Doug became acquainted with the Saddled Prominent, one of the many insects defoliating New York State's northern hardwood forests at that time. He dealt with this insect for several years during which time it heavily defoliated over a million and a half acres of forest land in northern New England, New York and Pennsylvania. A couple of years later, he initiated studies on the Cherry Scallop-Shell Moth, an important defoliator of black cherry which appeared in New York and northwestern Pennsylvania.

Though Doug has been retired for three years now, he is an ESF Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus and continues to research forest insects like the sugar maple borer and peach bark beetle (a pest of black cherry), among others. As Professor Emeritus, Doug retains an office at ESF in Syracuse and still competes for research funds. He is currently working with two graduate students and, pending the receipt of a U.S. Forest Service grant, he and Dr. Ralph Nyland expect to co-advise another graduate student this fall.

At present, Doug's two students are investigating the maple borer and an invasive wood wasp. One of Doug's favorite insects, the borer does not kill or slow the growth of sugar maple, but degrades the most valuable portion of the tree’s bole. Because of its commercial ramifications, this beetle is the focus of an extensive project at the College's Wanakena campus. In the fall his new graduate student will evaluate the current health of tree stands in the North Country, which were devastated by ice storms 10 years ago.

Several of Doug’s past graduate students have published scientific papers based on their research. Over the years, Doug began to notice that forest owners often found these papers to be inaccessible and so he began interpreting the findings and publishing them as how-to and informational articles for various journals and newsletters. From the start, Doug wrote to raise awareness of insect-borne problems afflicting woodlots and to instruct land owners on how to recognize said problems on their own properties.

Doug began writing similar articles for the NY Forest Owner in 1991 after prompting from Wes Suhr, a former member currently residing in Phoenix, AZ. While living in New York, Wes owned a large woodlot which he and Doug would regularly use to hunt while discussing forest subjects. Eventually, Doug was convinced, with additional encouragement from Dick Fox, former editor of the NY Forest Owner, to begin writing the articles, most of which focus on helping forest owners deal with both invasive and indigenous insect problems.

Over the years, Doug has spent a considerable amount of time in the field and on the phone with woodland owners. He has also given numerous talks during various NYFOA woodswalks and has assisted with Sugarbush Operator workshops. These interactions with owners have not only guided his writings topics, but the hands-on experience and concerns of the owners have also been helpful in directing his research. Having benefited so much from interacting with the good-natured and welcoming owners, Doug only hopes his writings have been helpful in return.

At present, Doug finds that most owners are primarily concerned with the effects of invasive species on their properties. Unfortunately, this can be a frustrating concern because of the cost required to control them. Despite forest owner interest in properly managing land, Doug also notes that fewer university professors are interested in working directly with forest owners. With high cost compounded by fewer resources, owners are left at a disadvantage.

Thus, Doug does his best to impart information to forest owners through his articles in order to promote forest health and protection. As he publishes his 100th article in this issue of "The Forest Owner," he plans to back away from contributing articles on a regular basis. Doug only hopes that his writings have been helpful to interested owners; however, he plans to offer additional articles on a more sporadic basis whenever new forest insect problems and other forest health issues arise.


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