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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Carol L. Miller

Research Ecologist
790 East Beckwith Avenue
United States

Phone: 406-542-4198
Contact Carol L. Miller

Current Research

Primary responsibilities are to develop the understanding necessary to guide the stewardship of fire as a natural process in wilderness. This includes: 1) studying natural fire regimes and how they have been altered by management, 2) evaluating options for the stewardship of fire as a natural process and the consequences of these management alternatives, and 3) seeking to understand the social and institutional factors that influence the evaluation of tradeoffs by fire managers and members of the public.

Research Interests

Agents of landscape pattern formation.
Interactions among fire regimes, climate, and vegetation pattern.
Implications of fire suppression and our ability to restore fire as an ecosystem process.
Effects of global climatic change on disturbance regimes.

Past Research

*Integration of fuel dynamics and fire processes into a forest succession model for the Sierra Nevada in California so that climate-fire-forest interactions could be better studied and understood.
*Development, use, and evaluation of spatially explicit models to map the likelihood of burning across heterogeneous landscapes for use in quantitative risk analysis.
*Retrospective modeling for quantifying the impacts of past suppression decisions and revealing the hidden consequences of suppression.
*Co-editor of a book on the Landscape Ecology of Fire.
*Analyses to evaluate the conservation capacity of the current protected area network in North America now and into the future.
*Use of wilderness fire histories to quantify the self-limiting property of fire regimes.
*Advancing knowledge about the formation, persistence, and function of fire refugia.
*A framework for understanding value-neutral and value-explicit dimensions of social-ecological resilience to wildfire.

Why This Research is Important

Managers of protected areas, such as wilderness, have the challenge of restoring or maintaining the disturbance process of fire while considering a suite of other social and ecological values inside and outside the boundaries of these areas. Their decisions can have long lasting consequences that are difficult to predict. Fire suppression is the dominant fire management strategy across all land designations, and in many areas, suppression has contributed to increasing hazardous fuel accumulations, increasing probability of extreme fire behavior and effects, and altered ecosystem structure and function. These results run counter to protected area management goals, and continue to increase the vulnerability of nearby human communities to wildland fire. Fire suppression also has helped to distort human perceptions of natural systems. The orientations toward fire management held by the public and government agencies need to shift away from suppression as the dominant strategy and toward a stewardship of the process of fire that includes natural and prescribed fire.


  • Penn State University, B.S. Electrical Engineering 1985
  • Colorado State University, M.S. Forest Sciences 1994
  • Colorado State University, Ph.D. Ecology 1998

Professional Organizations

  • Society for Wilderness Stewardship, Member (2011 - Current)
  • Association for Fire Ecology, Member (2005 - Current)
  • International Association of Wildland Fire, Member (2001 - Current)
  • International Association for Landscape Ecology (U.S. Chapter), Member (1998 - Current)

Awards & Recognition

  • National Wilderness Awards, Excellence in Wilderness Stewardship Research Award, 2016
    This award recognizes the contribution of a timely research endeavor that informs and responds to wilderness stewardship challenges. Awarded for Parks, S.A. et al. 2015. Ecol Appl 25:1478-1492.
  • Mid-Career Scientist Publication, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2011
    McKENZIE, D., MILLER, C., FALK, D.A., editors. 2011. The Landscape Ecology of Fire. Springer. 312 pages.
  • Best Paper in Landscape Ecology, US Chapter of the International Association for Landscape Ecology, 2008
    FALK, D.A., C. MILLER, McKENZIE, D., BLACK, A.E. 2007. Cross-scale analysis of fire regimes. Ecosystems 10: 809-823.
  • Excellence in Research, National Fire Plan, 2005
    Nomination was based on success in creating an interdisciplinary research program that proactively addresses high priority fire and fuels management needs.
  • Best Early Career Publication, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2004
    MILLER, C. 2003. Simulation of effects of climatic change on fire regimes. Pages 69 – 94 in T. Veblen, W. Baker, G. Montenegro and T. Swetnam (eds.), Fire and Climatic Change in Temperate Ecosystems of the Western Americas. Springer-Verlag.

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


A global assessment on the effects of wildfire on freshwater resources: Addressing potential vulnerability to water security

Freshwater resources are vital to humans and our natural environment. Water systems around the world are at risk resulting from population growt ...


The Effectiveness of Wildfire as a Fuel Treatment

New research results provide crucial information to land managers as they assess trade-offs associated with wildfire suppression and appropriate ...


The hidden consequences of fire suppression

Researchers are investigating the true costs of suppressing wildfires and finding results that will have broad national applicability. Their me ...


Wildland Fire: Nature’s Fuel Treatment

In recent decades, many landscapes across the western United States have experienced substantial fire activity. These fires consume fuels and al ...


Windows of Opportunity for Allowing Wilderness Fires to Burn

A goal of fire management in wilderness is to allow fire to play its natural ecological role without intervention. Unfortunately, most unplanned ...


Last updated on : 11/18/2021