Rachel A Loehman, Ph.D.

Landscape and fire ecology, coupled natural-human systems, historical ecology, fire behavior and fire effects


Research summary

My research focuses on understanding complex, multi-scale dynamics of natural and coupled human-natural systems, particularly focused on impacts of disturbance (climate changes, wildfires, insect outbreaks, erosion and sedimentation, invasive species) on landscapes, ecological communities, and natural and cultural resources.   My projects integrate field studies, in-situ instrumentation and monitoring, ecosystem and fire models, geospatial and statistical modeling and analysis, and ecological theory to provide new insights into changing climates, disturbance regimes, and landscapes. Applications include development of strategies for restoration of forests and fire regimes, assessments of landscape resilience and vulnerability, reconstruction of long-term human-environment interactions, predictive models of climate-vegetation-disturbance interactions, quantification of fire impacts on above- and belowground cultural and natural resources, and development of new tools and techniques for quantifying and managing shifting environments. I work in coastal, boreal, and tundra ecosystems in Alaska as well as forest and woodland ecosystems in the interior west and southwestern U.S.  


Professional memberships and service

Association for Fire Ecology (Board member, 2017-present)
Alaska Fire Science Consortium (Board member, 2016-present)
Society for American Archaeology
USGS Fire Science Communities of Practice
Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) Wildfires Collaboration Team


Current projects (as PI or Co-PI)

  • Climate change and fire return intervals in northwest boreal forests – implications for managing fires and ecosystems (Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative and USGS Ecosystems Mission Area)
  • Development of an improved index for assessing burn severity, post-fire recovery, and resilience in Alaskan ecosystems (USGS Ecosystems Mission Area)
  • Resilient landscapes and fire regimes: Meaning, metrics, and management (Joint Fire Science Program)
  • Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Berry Outlook: Identifying berry vulnerabilities to climate and landscape change using local knowledge and other ecological data (Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative)
  • Measuring and Monitoring the Impacts of Climate Change on the outer Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska (Bureau of Indian Affairs)
  • Landscape Impacts of Fire and Climate Change in the Southwest: A Science-Management Partnership (Joint Fire Science Program)
  • Long-term vulnerability and resilience of coupled human-natural ecosystems to fire regime and climate changes at an ancient Wildland Urban Interface (National Science Foundation, Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program)
  • Linking field-based and experimental methods to quantify, predict, and manage fire effects on cultural resources (Joint Fire Science Program)


Ph.D.      2006      The University of Montana       Ecosystems Ecology
M.A.       1999       University of New Mexico        Biogeography
B.A.        1995        University of New Mexico       Anthropology


Professional Experience

2014 - Present      Research Landscape Ecologist, US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, Alaska
2009-2014            Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire Sciences Lab, Missoula, Montana
2007-2009            Research Scientist, Systems for Environmental Management, Missoula, Montana
2007-2008            Climate Change Analyst, National Center for Landscape Fire Analysis, The University of Montana
2006-2007            Post-doctoral Research Scientist, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, The University of Montana
2004-2006            National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, The University of Montana
2001-2004            NASA Earth Systems Science Fellow, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, The University of Montana
1997-2000            GIS/Remote Sensing Specialist, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico