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James R McKenna

Forestry and Natural Resources 

  • Research Scientist/HTIRC
765.426.6003
765.583.3512
WRIT Room 144E
1007 North 725 West
West Lafayette, IN 47906

Areas of Specialization - Forest Biology

Facilities - Genetics Lab, John S. Wright Center, Molecular Tree Physiology Lab, Plant Tissue Culture Lab, Wood Research Lab

Areas of Excellence - Applied Genetics

I was born and raised near Detroit, Michigan.  I entered college in 1990 at the University of California at Davis where I received both a bachelors and masters of science degree.  My bachelor’s degree is in International Agricultural Development which encompasses the field of agricultural production in developing nations.  I worked as a volunteer on a fruit tree nursery project in Uganda in the summer of 1992 prior to graduating.  My master’s degree is in plant biology.  After completing graduate school in 1997, I worked on a variety of research projects for the University of California primarily on English walnut rootstocks, along with almond, peach, and grape.  Much of my research focused on tree genetics with the aim of developing higher quality plants for orchard growers.  In other cases I worked on developing natural resistance to diseases, and studied cultural methods growers could use to control pests and diseases in their orchards. 

In 2002 I was hired by the USDA Forest Service as the operational tree breeder for the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC) at Purdue University.  I work as part of a team of scientists, professors, and students in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, along with other researchers at Purdue, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and our partners focused on developing improved planting stock of fine hardwood trees. Our primary species for improvement are black walnut, black cherry, and northern red oak.  Improved seed sources will provide landowners trees that are adapted to their area, are vigorous, uniform, and have good timber quality. I also work on breeding disease resistance in two threatened native tree species:  butternut and American chestnut.   My research expertise includes plant propagation, genetic testing, and plantation/seed orchard establishment.  I am fortunate to be a part of the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue, and to collaborate with the IDNR, and landowners in Indiana and throughout the Midwest dedicated to enhancing forests.