Ronald S. Zalesny Jr., PhD

Adjunct Professor


Contact Information

Phone 715-362-1132
Address USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, 5985 Highway K, Rhinelander, WI 54501


  • PhD 2003, Iowa State University


  • Agroforestry, Genetics, Phytotechnologies, Short Rotation Woody Crops

Research Summary

Zalesny studies genetic and physiological mechanisms regulating biomass production of short rotation woody crops (e.g., poplars and willows) grown for phytotechnologies, bioenergy and fiber. The provision of ecosystem services associated with these end uses is tightly linked with increasing human population levels at regional, national and global scales, resulting in the need for such services along the urban to rural continuum that balance community well-being with ecological health and stability. To address this need, Zalesny is advancing short rotation woody crop production systems for pollution remediation and renewable energy. He develops phytoremediation and other phytotechnologies for ecosystem recovery, remediation, and restoration along the urban to rural continuum, and he refines silvicultural methods to provide ecosystem services such as optimal biomass productivity of hybrid poplar and willow across variable site and climate conditions.

Selected Publications

  • Pilipović, A., Zalesny, R.S., Jr., Orlović, S., Drekić, M., Pekeć, S., Katanić, M., and Poljaković-Pajnik, L. 2020. Growth and physiological responses of three poplar clones grown on soils artificially contaminated with heavy metals, diesel fuel, and herbicides. International Journal of Phytoremediation 22:436-450.
  • Ghezehei, S.B., Wright, J., Zalesny, R.S., Jr., Nichols, E.G., and Hazel, D.W. 2020. Matching site-suitable poplars to rotation length for optimized productivity. Forest Ecology and Management 457:117670.
  • Zalesny, R.S. Jr., Berndes, G., Dimitriou, I., Fritsche, U., Miller, C., Eisenbies, M., Ghezehei, S., Hazel, D., Headlee, W.L., Mola-Yudego, B., Negri, M.C., Nichols, E.G., Quinn, J., Shifflet, S.D., Therasme, O., Volk, T.A., and Zumpf, C.R. 2019. Positive water linkages of producing short rotation poplars and willows for bioenergy and phytotechnologies. WIREs Energy and Environment e345.
  • Zalesny, R.S. Jr., Headlee, W.L., Gopalakrishnan, G., Bauer, E.O., Hall, R.B., Hazel, D.W., Isebrands, J.G., Licht, L.A., Negri, M.C., Guthrie-Nichols, E., Rockwood, D.L., and Wiese, A.H. 2019. Ecosystem services of poplar at long-term phytoremediation sites in the Midwest and Southeast, United States. WIREs Energy and Environment e349.
  • Zalesny, R.S. Jr., Stange, C.M., and Birr, B.A. 2019. Survival, height growth, and phytoextraction potential of hybrid poplar and Russian Olive (Elaeagnus Angustifolia L.) established on soils varying in salinity in North Dakota, USA. Forests 10:672-691.
  • Zalesny, R.S. Jr., and Bauer, E.O. 2019. Genotypic variability and stability of poplars and willows grown on nitrate-contaminated soils. International Journal of Phytoremediation 21:969-979.
  • Rogers, E.R., Zalesny, R.S., Jr., Hallett, R.A., Headlee, W.L., and Wiese, A.H. 2019. Relationships among root-shoot ratio, early growth, and health of hybrid poplar and willow genotypes grown in different landfill soils. Forests 10:49-67.
  • Pilipović, A., Zalesny, R.S., Jr., Rončević, S., Nikolić, N., Orlović, S., Beljin, J., and Katanić, M. 2019. Growth, physiology, and phytoextraction potential of poplar and willow established in soils amended with heavy-metal contaminated, dredged river sediments. Journal of Environmental Management 239:352-365.
  • Headlee, W.L., Zalesny, R.S. Jr., and Hall, R.B. 2019. Coarse root biomass and architecture of hybrid aspen ‘Crandon’ (Populus alba L. × P. grandidenta Michx.) grown in an agroforestry system in central Iowa, USA. Journal of Sustainable Forestry 38:18-30.
  • Headlee, W.L., and Zalesny, R.S. Jr. 2019. Allometric relationships for aboveground woody biomass differ among hybrid poplar genomic groups and clones in the north-central USA. BioEnergy Research 12:966-976.
  • Clifton-Brown, J., Harfouche, A., Casler, M.D., Jones, H.D., Macalpine, W.J., Murphy-Borkern, D., Smart, L.B. (49 others), Zalesny, R.S. Jr., Zong, J., and Lewandowski, I. 2019. Breeding progress and preparedness for mass-scale deployment of perennial lignocellulosic biomass crops switchgrass, miscanthus, willow, and poplar. Global Change Biology – Bioenergy 11:118-151.
  • Zalesny, R.S. Jr., Stanturf, J.A., Gardiner, E.S., Bañuelos, G.S., Hallett, R.A., Hass, A., Stange, C.M., Perdue, J.H., Young, T.M., Coyle, D.R., and Headlee, W.L. 2016. Environmental technologies of woody crop production systems. BioEnergy Research 9:492-506.
  • Zalesny, R.S. Jr., Stanturf, J.A., Gardiner, E.S., Perdue, J.H., Young, T.M., Coyle, D.R., Headlee, W.L., Bañuelos, G.S., and Hass, A. 2016. Ecosystem services of woody crop production systems. BioEnergy Research 9:465-491.
  • Zalesny, R.S. Jr., and Headlee, W.L. 2015. Developing woody crops for the enhancement of ecosystem services under changing climates in the North Central United States. Journal of Forest and Experimental Science 31:78-90.
  • Mirck, J., and Zalesny, R.S. Jr. 2015. Mini-review of knowledge gaps in salt tolerance of plants applied to willows and poplars. International Journal of Phytoremediation 17:640-650.
  • Lazarus, W., Headlee, W.L., and Zalesny, R.S. Jr. 2015. Impacts of supplyshed-level differences in productivity and land costs on the economics of hybrid poplar production in Minnesota, USA. BioEnergy Research 8:231-248.