Understanding how wildland fire affects ecosystem structure and function is obviously a critical need for natural resource management, but the field of fire ecology has been slow to progress, leaving a serious knowledge gap for managers. USDA Forest Service scientists argue that the problem is two-fold. First, many fire ecology investigations occur after fires, with no detailed information on fire behavior. Second, fire behavior varies across spatial and temporal scales, and the occurrence of three-dimensional heat transfer is only now being appreciated. Capturing this variability is critical for identifying mechanisms that explain fire effects and building effective tools for fire managers; however, spatially and temporally resolved measurement of heat and mass transport in fires is difficult. Even when fire is measured, it is often measured in ways that cannot explain effects of interest. Recent advances in technology and analytical techniques used for measuring the fire environment offer promise for improving the science of fire ecology. Scientists at the Forest Service's Southern Research Station and partners were awarded $2.6 million from the Department of Defense to pursue this line of research.