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Connecting Research Methods to Fire Management Decisions

New Webinar Series: Connecting Research Methods to Fire Management Decisions

Presentations in this webinar series emphasize work by fire ecologists and research-management partnerships. Researchers will address fire effects and implications for land managers, as well as describing hypotheses, experimental designs, and methods which could be adapted for future applied fire ecology research.

Land managers and other fire practitioners across the Upper Midwest recognize fire is a critical process in local ecosystems. They also recognize that a complex array of factors determine whether burn plans and application of fire will meet burn objectives and conservation goals. The outcomes of using fire at a particular place are determined by many abiotic factors, as well as direct and indirect impacts on native and exotic organisms. Consequently, land managers cannot always readily apply the results of fire research which uses fire as a categorical variable (burned/unburned or frequency of burns).

However, many fire ecology research methods have been developed to investigate how abiotic and biotic factors influence the effects of a prescribed fire and the longer term fire regime. The presentations in this series are intended to help inform fire management decisions as well as contribute to the development of fire ecology research in the Midwest.

Presentation 1 – Feb. 19, 2019, 2-3 PM Central

Fire Science Literacy: How to better understand and communicate the wildland fire environment


Devan Allen McGranahan, Assistant Professor of Range Science, North Dakota State University.

Carissa L. Wonkka, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Nebraska

Presentation summary

The wildland fire environment is complex, with fire behavior and fire effects depending on interactions between fuels, management history, and weather patterns beginning days and weeks before a burn. Thus it can be difficult to extrapolate results or observations from one fire to another, or anticipate how a given fire might behave or affect organisms in the burn unit. We have developed a framework for wildland fire education, research, and communication that promotes Wildland Fire Literacy--a basic, shared understanding of important components of the wildland fire environment and how they relate to fire regimes in our modern socio-ecological context. In this presentation we will walk through the critical aspects of fuels, weather, and fire behavior fire scientists and practitioners alike should be comfortable thinking out, observing, and communicating to others in the community. We believe this shared language will not only help relate fire weather conditions to fire behavior, and ultimately better explain fire effects, but also help fire planners identify ideal conditions to achieve desired outcomes.

You can read the presenters' paper on wildland fire literacy for free.

Presentation 2 – March 6, 2019, 12-1 PM Central

The Danger of an Overly-Precise Burn Prescription:
Re-visiting perspectives and knowledge gaps on fire and which factors to consider for measuring success



Nathan Holoubek, Wildlife Biologist, Wisconsin DNR

Presentation summary

Prescribed fire is vital to maintaining and promoting many of our highest value cover types in the Midwest. However, we must avoid over-prescribing burn plans and acknowledge that there is much to learn about what factors best predict the success of a given fire for burn planning and monitoring. We will discuss which factors mattered, and which didn’t, for brush control in over 56 prescribed burns in Wisconsin.

We will specifically cover:
•    Perspectives on our understanding of natural fire regimes
•    How standard modeling compares to measured fuels and fire behavior
•    What fire behavior metrics mattered most for brush control
•    Realistic expectations in prescribing burn day conditions in this region
•    What to consider looking at in a prescribed fire monitoring program


This webinar will expand upon research presented at the 2018 Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference (a PDF copy of that presentation can be downloaded from the Midwest Invasive Plant Network - Impacts of Prescribed Fire Intensity and Seasonality on Woody Vegetation).