Montana State University

Fire experts available to the media

June 27, 2012 -- MSU News Service

One of the most famous wildfire photos ever taken, this picture from Aug. 6, 2000, shows two elk standing in a stream, perhaps seeking shelter from the rapidly-spreading flames of the Bitterroot Valley fire in the Bitterroot National Forest, Montana. Toward the end of August 2000, the Bitterroot Valley wildfires would merge with the Mussigbrod wildfires in the Big Hole River drainage basin to burn more than 247,000 acres. As of mid-September 2000, in what has been one of the worst fire seasons in U.S. history, wildfires had consumed more than 6,650,000 acres (10,389 square miles) across the country--a total area greater in size than the state of Maryland (9,774 square miles). Photo courtesy John McColgan, Alaska Forest Service (If republished, please credit John McColgan, Alaska Forest Service. Photo and caption information from NASA Earth Observatory:    High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
WildFIRE PIRE, a National Science Foundation partnership, has a variety of experts available to journalists working on big-picture stories regarding wildfires.

WildFIRE PIRE is an international partnership focused on the causes and consequences of fire in the past, present, and future.

This partnership includes scientists, educators, and fire specialists from: Montana State University, University of Colorado, University of Idaho, Salish Kootenai College, USDA Forest Service, Australian National University, University of Auckland, University of Tasmania, Landcare Research in New Zealand, and Monash University in Australia.

The project also involves research and land managers from U.S. and foreign non-profit conservation organizations, who are providing internship experiences for undergraduates and timely fire information. The expertise of the team includes scientist working on fire history, fire ecology, fire climatology, fire management, cultural anthropology, biodiversity and fire conservation, and invasive species. The team also includes specialists in natural history filmmaking and outreach, international education programs, project assessment, and data management.

The following fire experts are available to the media:

Cathy Whitlock, director, Montana Institute on Ecosystems, Montana State University, 406-994-6910
Past fire activity in Yellowstone and western U.S. and fire-climate linkages in the western U.S.

David McWethy, assistant professor, Department of Earth Sciences, MSU, 406-994-6915
Role of humans in past fire activity.

Bruce Maxwell, professor, Department of Land Resources & Environmental Sciences, MSU, 406-994-7060
Fire and the spread of non-native plant species.

Thomas Veblen, professor, Department of Geography, University of Colorado-Boulder, 303-492-8528
Fires in the Colorado Rocky Mountains; fires at the wildland-urban interface; recent and future fires in Patagonian Chile and Argentina.

Philip Higuera, assistant professor, College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho, 208-885-6024
Past and present fire-climate linkages; fires in Rocky Mountain National Park, Alaska.

Robert Keane, research ecologist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula Fire Laboratory.
Contact through: Cass Cairns, public affairs officer for Rocky Mountain Research Station headquarters,, 970-498-1370.
Landscape, fire, and climate dynamics; Fire behavior and fuel interactions; fire management.

Greg Pederson, research ecologist, US Geological Survey Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, 406-994-7390
Current and future climate trends in western North America.

David Bowman, professor, University of Tasmania, Australia., 61-3-6226-1943
Past, present, and future fires in Australia.

Matt McGlone, researcher, Landcare Researcher, 64-3-321-9999
Past, present, and future fires in New Zealand.

Contact: Homepage of WildFIRE PIRE: