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Media Spotlights

Serra Hoagland- Owls of Mescalero

Messengers: The Owls of Mescalero

Harbingers of Change: Owls of Mescalero For the Mescalero Apache, the owl is a messen-ger. Often misconstrued as a bad omen, the owls provide a warning that it’s time to pay attention, and that “when the world is changing, we need to listen.” For FFS Wild-life Biologist and Tribal Liaison Serra Hoagland, that warning is a timely one. She’s studying the Mexican Spotted Owl population on the Mescalero Apache reser-vation in New Mexico, a land steeped in cultural signifi-cance and whose tribal forest manage-ment team uses alternative methods to protect their forests from catastrophic wildfire - the biggest threat to the owl and to the environment in the Southwest from a changing cli-mate. Serra sees the owls as harbingers for these changes and an indicator species for forest health.

Serra’s work is highlighted in the new short film, “Messengers: Owls of Mescalero.” In it, filmmaker Janey Fugate explores the role Native American conser-vationists play in protecting wilderness, and how com-bining traditional ecological knowledge with Western science can address one of the most critical challenges facing the world of wildlife management.

In addition to exploring the role of traditional knowledge in forest management, Serra hopes the film inspires another generation of Native American youth to pursue careers in conservation, “so we can continue to protect the resources that sustained our Native communi-ties for generations.”

Photo: Serra Hoagland

Messengers: The Owls of Mescalero

Post-Fire Forest Management

Sharon Hood's research is used by the Forest Service Northern Region to determine tree mortality after the 2017 wildfire season. This work is outlined in the Post-Fire Forest Management in the Northern Region storymap.

Landmark Wilderness Fire Strategy Celebrates 45 Years

White Cap Study Story (video Aug 2018)

In 1970, Forester Dave Aldrich and Fire Researcher Bob Mutch, working with Bitterroot National Forest supervisor Orville Daniels, initiated work on a revolutionary fire management plan for the White Cap drainage of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Based on their field work, the team recommended and, on August 17, 1972, Chief John McGuire approved, a plan to allow fires to burn without interference in the prescribed  management area. The very next day, August 18, lightning ignited a small fire that the team allowed to burn until it extinguished itself – a major milestone in allowing fire to resume its natural place in the landscape.

Forty-five years later, on August 16-18, 2017, the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab hosted a reunion of many of those involved in the original White Cap project. Held in the Paradise Campground in the Bitterroot National
Forest, more than 25 researchers, regional foresters, and original alumni of the White Cap study met to remember the events of the early 1970s, and reflect on advances in wilderness fire management. The highlight of the reunion was a barbecue and panel discussion featuring original White Cap participants, Daniels, Mutch, fuels expert Jim Brown, and three of the original field crew who worked with Mutch and Aldrich: Tim Beebe, Ron Milam, and Rick Oberheu (see photo, right, and page 1).

The reunion also served to launch a new study to re-measure fuels in the White Cap. With more than a thousand plots in the original study area, measured as often as three times from 1970 to 1974, FFS Research Ecologist Bob Keane, ALWRI Research Ecologist Carol Miller, and PNW Resear ch Landscape Ecologist Paul Hessburg, Sr., and their crews have started the remeasurement of the White Cap stands to evaluate vegetation and fuel changes over more than 40 years of successful fire policy implementation. These researchers will use the original White Cap field data to create detailed fuels and vegetation GIS layers to represent fuel conditions in 1974, and augment these layers with annual fire severity maps from 1974 to 2014. Crews will use data-gathering techniques that ensure the ability to remeasure the same areas in the future.

Hollingsworth works on Lolo Peak Fire 2017

La WenHollingsworth, Spatial Fire Analyst, highlighted with her work on the Lolo Peak.

Fire Science on the Lolo Peak Fire: A look at how the team managing the Lolo Peak Fire in Montana, uses a group of fire and weather scientists, to predict short and long term fire behavior. LaWen Hollingsworth speaks on long term fire behavior.

Missoula Independent article

KECI NBC Montana: Area of Lolo Peak hasn't burned for at least 140 years

Finney Interviewed on Bullet Starting Fires

Mark Finney's research on Bullet Ignition is highlighted through KCRA3 News Wildfire Coverage - Fire Danger Restrictions

Hardy interviews with BBC's Up All Night

Colin Hardy, FFS Program Director, accepted a great opportunity to tell the United Kingdom via BBC radio’s show Up All Night about the significance of the Missoula Fire Lab and the important research conducted here. Listen to the interview.

Fire Ecologist Discusses Bark Beetles

Dr. Sharon Hood is featured in University of Montana STEM Stories (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathamatics education grouping).

See the Youtube video: Dr. Sharon Hood: Fire Ecologist Discusses Bark Beetles
For additional information see Sharon's project - Fire and Tree Defense: The Impact of Frequent, Low-Intensity Fire on Tree Defense To Bark Beetles

Image: Sharon Hood

Climate change increasing length of wildfire seasons worldwide

Matt Jolly, Research Ecologist, is featured in a Missoulian article outlining a recent paper (Climate-induced variatons in global wildfire danger from 1979-2013) published in the international journal Nature Communications. 

Jolly said this is the most prestigious paper he's ever been a part of. "I believe that it will get a lot of attention," he said. "Mostly because there has been a tremendous number of studies that have been very regional– they might talk about parts of Siberia – but they really haven't had that underlying thread that helps us weave those regional studies together in a global context. This is the first look at being able to do that global analysis. We still have a lot to learn from this study."

Soil Heating and Fire Effects Resulting from In Situ Oil Spill Burning

Soil heating and fire effects resulting from in situ oil spill burning

FFS Staff: James Reardon, Forester

Courtesy of: Fire, Fuels and Smoke Science Program
Duration: 00:04:12

oil spill burning video screen

The Mysterious Science of Fire

Courtesy of The Atlantic
Date: May 21, 2014 | Katherine Wells, Sam Price-Waldman
Duration: 00:08:55

FFS Staff: Jack Cohen, Mark Finney, Sara McAllister

Massive wildfires cost billions of dollars and burn millions of acres in the U.S. every year, but we know surprisingly little about the basic science of how they spread. At the Fire Lab in Missoula, Montana, researchers reverse-engineer spreading fires using wind tunnels, fire-whirl generators, and giant combustion chambers. They're finding that fire is a mysterious phenomenon, and the physics behind it is often counterintuitive.

Wildland Urban Interface Fire Problem

The Washington, D.C National Building Museum’s new exhibition, Designing for Disaster, features Research Physical Scientist Jack Cohen, Missoula, in an online video about his research focused on reducing homeowner risk in the wildland-urban interface. Jack’s post-fire field examinations and laboratory-based research on fire dynamics led to the concept of the home ignition zone, a phrase he coined. The exhibition examines how the public assess risks from natural hazards and how they can create policies, plans, and designs yielding safer, more disaster-resilient communities. This exhibit runs from May 11, 2014 — August 2, 2015.

Courtesy of: National Building Museum
Date: May 5, 2014
Duration: 00:03:39

Jack D. Cohen, Research Physical Scientist

No one has done more to define the wildland-urban interface problem and empower homeowners to reduce their risk of wildfire than Jack Cohen. His post-fire field examinations and laboratory-based research on fire dynamics led to the concept of the home ignition zone, a phrase he coined. Cohen also co-developed the U.S. National Fire Danger Rating System and contributed to the U.S. fire behavior prediction systems.

RMRS Fire Scientists Featured in New York Times

The New York Times Sunday Magazine’s September 22 issue prominently featured Research Forester Mark Finney and Research Physical Scientist Jack Cohen, Missoula. The cover story, Into the Wildfire, focuses on their studies and experiments to find out how fire burns. They found fire does not burn the way researchers previously thought, nor does it burn the way reflected in the current fire behavior models. The author and scientists discussed the potential uses for this new information and its possible implications for the Wildland Urban Interface. The article includes extraordinary photographs.

Photo: view of wind tunnel