US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Matt in Chile

Matthew P. Thompson

Research Forester
200 East Broadway
United States

Phone: 406-329-3383
Contact Matthew P. Thompson

Current Research

Integrated wildfire risk assessment to human and ecological values; Application of actuarial principles to wildfire financial planning; Risk-based fuel treatment evaluation; Suppression cost modeling; Systematic incorporation of expert judgment into fire effects analysis; Identification and classification of uncertainties faced in wildfire decision-making; Human factors, behavioral economics, risk perception, and decision-making; Partial observability and the value of information

Research Interests

Application of principles from systems engineering, industrial engineering, risk analysis, operations research, economics, and decision-making under uncertainty to complex resource management with economic and environmental objectives. With future work I hope to better incorporate spatiotemporal dynamics into integrated risk assessment, facilitate the application of comparative risk assessment frameworks to inform strategic planning efforts, better understand the role of human factors and incentives in decision-making, improve our ability to model the effectiveness of suppression resources, and continue to systematically explore methods for addressing uncertainty.

Past Research

My past research has focused on the integration of engineering and economics to improve decision making across a variety of disciplines and contexts.  My doctoral dissertation focused on forest transportation planning with environmental and economic objectives, with a strong incorporation of operations research methodologies in particular multi-objective optimization.  My master's thesis focused on forest economics and policy in the context of climate change, and highlighted the need to extend attention beyond carbon sequestration to include, among other issues, the albedo effect and the implications of land use change.  Undergraduate research focused on the design of a standardized data collection form to improve the examination and diagnosis of patients with acute abdominal pain.

Why This Research is Important

The spatial, temporal, and social dimensions of wildfire risk are challenging the Forest Service to meet societal needs while maintaining the health of its land base. The confluence of past management practices and philosophies, a changing climate, and increased human development into fire-prone areas result in magnified threat to human and ecological values. Further, escalating large fire suppression costs present a major challenge to the fiscal health of the agency. Thus there is a continued need for increased analytical rigor and alignment with risk management principles within federal wildfire management. Collectively my research seeks to better achieve cost containment objectives, promote landscape restoration and resource protection, and ultimately to inform and improve decision-making processes, be it related to wildfire management or more broadly to natural resources management with multiple objectives.


  • University of Virginia, Systems Engineering , 2001
  • University of California, Berkeley, Industrial Engineering & Operations Research , 2002
  • Oregon State University, Forest Management , 2008
  • Oregon State University, Forest Engineering , 2009

Professional Experience

  • Research Forester, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Human Dimensions Program
    2009 - Current

Awards & Recognition

  • Research & Development Deputy Chief's Early Career Scientist Award, 2013
    Award recognizes scientists at the beginning of their research careers who have demonstrated outstanding capability and exceptional promise for significant future achievement.

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


Report Offers Framework for Wildfire Risk Assessment and Decision Support

Scientists crafted a framework for wildfire risk assessment and applied the framework to support fire-management decision making processes on mu ...


Risk Analysis Prioritizes Investments in Hazardous Fuels Reduction

Scientists mitigate the adverse impacts of wildland fires


Last updated on : 05/08/2015