WHO WE ARE
WE ARE A TEAM OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND WILDLAND FIRE RESEARCHERS AND WILDLAND FIREFIGHTERS WHO BELIEVE IN THE IMPORTANCE OF REPORTING, EVALUATING, AND SELF-EXAMINATION OF THE WILDLAND FIRE WORKPLACE.
Hi and welcome!
A note from one author
Thanks for checking out our work. We are excited to continue to expand this webpage and offer more content as we analyze more data. This site is a home for research updates, our data, resources we find, and general updates. We're glad you are here!
I'm the primary author on this site and any mistakes here are mine alone. My co-authors play important roles in data collection and analysis. In particular those that work full-time outside academia have worked hard to make sure we authentically represent the wildland fire community from the ground level-- I'm not a federal wildland firefighter. I'm an academic who loves the chance to get to hold a drip torch (or really just leave the desk). If you see something that you feel like is a misrepresentation or even unclear, please know that it is not intentional or malicious, and I want to know: Please don't hesitate to send me a message and provide a correction.
I also wanted to tell you a little about myself and my journey to this project: I grew up in southern Indiana in the 1990s, and wildland fire wasn't any everyday part of my life, but an ecology course in college changed my perspectives and started me on an academic trajectory that has had strong ties to the wildland fire community.
My first research projects dealt with the ways in which prescribed burns shape insect communities in Ozark forests. I made it a mission to make sure I went out and learned 'how' fires were being lit so I could understand the managers' concerns and also, so I could ask more informed questions. I earned my FFT2 quals, did my first pack test, and got some on-the-ground experience there. I've never been a full-time wildland firefighter, but I've participated in 65ish fires across four states and have loved learning and working on every single one.
My first faculty position was as an assistant professor of fire ecology and management in the Department of Natural Resources Management at Texas Tech University, a position originally held by the father of fire ecology, Henry Wright. I felt privileged to be walking in the footsteps of a giant there, and I was fortunate to have excellent mentors in the wildland fire community who helped me grow as a trainer and understand more about the breadth of wildland firefighters that exist in America. I learned a LOT more about fire management there, in grasslands that were not at all like the forests that I had helped burn in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. I also reinvigorated a prescribed burn training program for the college students at Texas Tech that became popular and successful, one of my proudest achievements. Training students in wildland fire practice and ecology was not only professional rewarding, but was personally life-changing. I realized I had the power to effect personal growth through the instilling of not only knowledge, but skills such as leadership, perseverance, and self-discipline. There, I also learned the importance of legislative actions as a member of the Texas Prescribed Burn Board and began interacting with the public in that capacity.
I moved to Missouri in 2018 where I'm working as an associate professor of biology, the director of a field station, the director of an environmental science program, and yes, still a researcher, at Missouri University of Science and Technology. I'm a board member of the Missouri Prescribed Fire Council, where, as part of a consortium of stakeholders, we helped pass Missouri's first prescribed fire law in 2021. I still train some firefighters, but a lot more of my time is spent thinking about policy-level issues.
My shift into environmental health and human dimensions of wildland fire has been a big departure from my original research themes, and frankly, wasn't planned. But, I am immensely grateful to the universe for the opportunity: I find myself happier than I have been in a long time. I'm learning new things. I'm necessarily interdisciplinary as I rely on the expertise of others to expand the horizons of our work beyond my own scope. I'm doing work that I find immense purpose in, and I'm interacting with some of my favorite people in the world (that's you, wildland firefighters and wildland fire community) to do it.
On a very personal level, I also have a my own experiences in a long-term relationship with and now co-parent two vibrant children with a career wildland firefighter and have endured the frustrations of that partnership. Along the way, as my personal life has intersected the community, I heard firsthand stories from friends that mirror so many that I read from our survey respondents, and being able to see our data and the reflection of my own life in it has been both jarring and validating. In that way, this project has been one of the most personally significant in my career.
I'm proud to share these data with you and look forward to continuing to build this corpus of work for years to come.