Todd Hawbaker


Todd J. Hawbaker received his B.S. degree in animal ecology in 1998 from Iowa State University.  After receiving his B.S., he worked for a couple of years burning and restoring tallgrass prairie in southwestern Minnesota and then pursued graduate school.  He received his M.S. degree in forestry in 2003 and Ph.D. degree in forestry in 2009 from the University of Wisconsin.  He joined the U.S. Geological Survey as a research ecologist in 2008 and currently works at the Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center in Denver, CO.  His current research with the USGS combines remote sensing with statistical and process-based ecosystem simulation models to understand the drivers behind ecosystem disturbances and quantify the impacts of disturbances on human and natural systems.


Research projects:

National-scale wildfire and fire-management impacts on ecosystem carbon storage and greenhouse-gas emissions

The USGS is conducted a national-scale assessment of carbon storage and greenhouse gas fluxes as mandated by Section 712 of the Energy Independence Act of 2007, also known as LandCarbon. Todd’s participation in this effort was twofold. First, an assessment was conducted to quantify the impacts of recent wildfires on greenhouse gas emissions. Second, a suite of data, tools, and models were developed to estimate future potential wildfire activity, biomass consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions under a range of climate, land-use/land-cover change, and fire-management scenarios. More details about the LandCarbon project, including ecosystem disturbances, methodology can be found at


Landsat Burned Area Algorithm and Products

The USGS is developing research-quality, application-ready data products using historic, current, and future Landsat data. Todd leads the development of the Landsat Burned Area Algorithm and Products.  Our approach uses a combination of machine learning and object-based extraction to identify burned areas in both forest and non-forest ecosystems from every available Landsat image. More details about this effort can be found at  Our scene-level burned area products can be ordered through USGS Earth Explorer (  Annual composites for the conterminous United States are available at



  • 2009, PhD Forestry, University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Dissertation title: Fire in the wildland-urban interface, a national comparison of patterns of fire occurrence and fire risk to homes.
  • 2003, M.S. Forestry, University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Thesis title: Road density and landscape pattern in Northern Wisconsin, USA; present and past perspectives on environmental constraints and social drivers.
  • 1998, B.S. Animal Ecology, Iowa State University.


Professional experience:

  • Research Ecologist (Oct. 2012 - present), U.S. Geological Survey, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, Denver, CO
  • Research Ecologist (Aug. 2008 - Oct. 2012), U.S. Geological Survey, Rocky Mountain Geographic Science Center, Denver, CO
  • Graduate Research Assistant (Sep. 2004 - July 2008), University of Wisconsin, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Madison, WI
  • Research Intern (Sep. 2003 - Aug. 2004), University of Wisconsin, Department of Forest Ecology & Management, Madison, WI
  • Graduate Research Assistant (Jan. 2001 - Aug. 2003), University of Wisconsin, Department of Forest Ecology & Management, Madison, WI
  • Restoration Ecologist (May 1998 - Dec. 2000), Salix Ecological Resources, Windom, MN
  • Software Engineer & UNIX Systems Administrator (May 1993 - Oct.1997), Engineering Animation Inc., Ames, IA



Extended Abstracts and other publications (see tab below for main list):

Duberstein, J.A., T.J. Hawbaker, G.K. Speiran, Z. Zhu, N. Cormier, and F.C. Wurster. 2016. Quantifying aboveground biomass and carbon sequestration rates in Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia, USA.  Extended abstracts from the 15th International PEAT Congress August 15-19, 2016, Sarawak, Malaysia

Hawbaker, T.J., A. Reddy, Z. Zhu, F.C. Wurster and J.A. Duberstein. 2016. Quantifying above and belowground carbon loss following wildfire in peatlands using repeated lidar measurements. Extended abstracts from the 15th International PEAT Congress August 15-19, 2016, Sarawak, Malaysia

Prestemon, J.P., T.J. Hawbaker, M. Bowden, J. Carpenter, M.T. Brooks, K.L. Abt, R. Sutphen, A. Kole Berriochoa, and S. Scranton. 2013. Wildfire ignitions: A brief review of the science and recommendations for empirical modeling. General Technical Report-SRS-171. Asheville, NC, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station, 20 p. [Link]

Bar Massada, A., T. J. Hawbaker, V. C. Radeloff, and S. I Stewart. 2012. Using MODIS Active Fire and National Lightning Detection Network data to identify spatiotemporal patterns of large lightning fires in the conterminous United States, 2000 – 2008. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing. 99: 1-10. [Link]