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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Deborah Finch

Deborah M. Finch

Scientist Emeritus
333 Broadway SE, Suite 115
New Mexico
United States

Phone: 505-401-0580
Contact Deborah M. Finch

Current Research

I am a scientist emeritus in the Maintaining Resilient Dryland Ecosystems Science program and focus much of my personal research on riparian and rangeland environments, specifically evaluating the outcomes of restoration treatments, fire and the removal of invasive plant species and fuel loads to reduce the risk of fire and determining the effects of those measures on biological diversity, threatened, endangered and rare species, Neotropical migratory birds, riparian resources, and interactions among different elements of ecosystems. Through much of my career, I have evaluated how processes and functions change and how managers can improve conditions and reduce vulnerability of managed and sensitive ecosystems. 

Research Interests

I am interested in how plants and animals respond to the effects of natural resource practices and natural phenomena. I work to determine the vulnerability of species to shifts in climate, fire, and invasive speciees and to develop support tools that managers can use to assist species to adapt to changing conditions. I have worked in urban and wildland-urban interface environments, gauging how federal agency decision-makers make management decisions on urban ecosystem services and respond to stressors associated with open space in and near city environments. Developing research and management partnerships to conserve native plant and animal species and their habitats and to reduce stress on ecosystems is of interest to me.

Past Research

My research has informed managers and scientists about how natural and anthropogenic disturbances and restoration affect species populations and productivity and provide guidance for mitigating negative effects. My publications and consultations are used by managers to solve problems, recover threatened and endangered species, develop monitoring protocols, and manage biological diversity.

Why This Research is Important

My research and program management aids land managers in evaluating ways to manage effects of stressors and disturbances, particularly in riparian and dryland ecosystems and to formulate approaches to restore damaged lands. Earlier in my career, I was recognized for my contributions to the field of landbird conservation by PIF in 2006. PIF is a cooperative effort dedicated to combining, coordinating, and increasing public and private resources for the purpose of conserving bird populations in North and South America. I have served as leader for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Recovery Team and have published conservation assessments on many other species. I was the program manager for the Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Program for 10 years and the project leader for a grasslands and riparian unit for 15 years. I also competed for and was awarded funds for the Middle Rio Grande Ecosystem Management Research Unit, a research effort that produced 272 publications since 1994.


  • Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, B.S. Wildlife Management 1978
  • Arizona State University, Tempe, M.S. Zoology 1981
  • University of Wyoming, Laramie, Ph.D. Zoology and Physiology 1987

Awards & Recognition

  • Civil Rights and Cultural Transformation Award and Plaque, 2016
    Annual Awards. Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Elected Fellow, 2015
    American Ornithologists' Union
  • Wings Across the Americas Award, 2012
    Research and Partnership Award for Outstanding Achievement in Conservation. Bird responses to invasive species, fire and fuel removal in vulnerable southwestern ecosystems
  • National Grasslands Research and Technology Award, 2012
    For Group Leadership for Climate Change in the Great Plains workshop and managers meeting. National Grassland Council.
  • Partners in Conservation Award, 2011
    For Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. In recognition of outstanding conservation achievements attained through collaboration and partnerships with individuals, communities, agencies and organizations.
  • Rangeland Research and Development Award. Plaque, 2010
    "For lifetime achievement in rangeland research." Rangeland Research and Development and National Forest System. USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC.
  • Merit Award and Plaque, 2010
    "For your dedication and commitment to excellent work as the Acting Assistant Director for the Pacific Southwest Research Station."
  • Merit Award, 2009
    "For Outstanding Managerial and Technical Leadership as Acting Program Manager for the Forest and Woodland Ecosystems and the Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Programs". RMRS
  • Merit Award, 2009
    "For Outstanding Managerial and Technical Leadership as Acting Program Manager for the Forest and Woodland Ecosystems and the Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Programs". RMRS
  • Merit Award, 2009
    "For excellent long-term mentorship of postdocs, students, and employees and for oversight of the Santa Fe and Middle Rio Grande fuel projects. RMRS.
  • Merit Award and Plaque, 2008
    "For exemplary leadership as Acting Wildlife Program Leader". USDA Forest Service, Research and Development, Washington Office.
  • Letter of Commendation, 2008
    "For support for the Great Plains Riparian Forest Management Summit". National Agroforestry Center.
  • Public Awareness & Education Award - Group, 2008
    For: developing "The Rocky Mountain Riparian Digest," an online outreach tool to market research from RMRS and collaborators. From New Mexico Riparian Council.
  • Special Award, Etched Plate, 2007
    "For your Outstanding Leadership of RWU 4351". From Unit Employees of Rocky Mountain Research Station, Albuquerque Lab.
  • Merit Award, 2006
    “For your active role on the RMRS Invasives Meeting Team in planning and conducting the workshop...". USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
  • Cash Award and Plaque., 2006
    Best Technology Transfer Annual Award, "For RMRS-GTR-135, Assessment of Grassland Ecosystem Conditions in the American Southwest". USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • PIF Investigations Award, , 2006
    for "Outstanding Contributions to Bird Conservation". Partners in Flight.
  • Merit Award, 2006
    “For exemplary efforts in managing 2 research work units through a difficult transition period...” RMRS
  • Investigations Award and Plaque, 2005
    Partners in Flight award. For exceptional service to landbird conservation.
  • Merit Award, 2004
    For outstanding leadership of the R3/RMRS Grassland Assessment Team and in editing V.1.” From Employees of the Albuquerque Forestry Sciences Laboratory.
  • Merit Award, 2004
    “For timely completion of RWU-4351 research charter and excellent Ecosystem Management Unit presentation”. Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Award Plaque, 2004
    Civil Rights Award. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
  • The New Mexico Riparian Council Research Award (statue), 2004
    For work on the Middle Rio Grande Fuels Reduction Study.
  • Merit Award, 2003
    “For strong leadership and high productivity of two research work units and for diversity and extent of external partnerships…” RMRS.
  • Award Plaque, 2003
    Civil Rights Award. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
  • Clarence Burch Recognition CashAward & Plaque, $15K, 2002
    For research on the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. With Scott Stoleson. The Quivira Coalition.
  • Certificate of Appreciation, 2002
    “For your outstanding contributions to the success of the USDA Hurricane Mitch/Georges Reconstruction Project in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Cash Award & Certificate of Merit, 2001
    “For your leadership of the technical team that produced Status, Ecology, and Conservation of the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher"
  • Certificate of Appreciation, 2001
    “For your contributions to the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Recovery Team in drafting the Recovery Plan”, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Certificate of Appreciation , 1997
    “Your involvement on the Terrestrial Ecology Team contributed toward the success of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project."
  • Cash Award & Certificate of Merit , 1997
    “For outstanding effort and responsiveness in completing the manuscript “Songbird Ecology in Southwestern Ponderosa Pine Forests”
  • Cash Award & Certificate of Merit , 1996
    “For outstanding performance as Project Leader of RM-4351 for FY96.
  • Cash Award & Certificate of Merit, 1996
    “For your exceptional perseverance, strength, and achievement during unsettling transitional periods.”
  • Governor Appointment , 1995
    New Mexico Distinguished Public Service Award Council.
  • Special Recognition Unit Cash Award and Plaque,, 1994
    Beneficial Use of Biosolids Awards Program, Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Special Achievement Cash Award & Plaque, 1992
    "in recognition of your outstanding contribution to the conservation of Neotropical migratory birds through the Partners in Flight Program." Partners in Flight, Washington, D.C.
  • Award Plaque, 1992
    for Co-chairing Program Committee, National Training Workshop, "Status and Management of Neotropical Migratory Birds".
  • Cash Award and Plaque, 1991
    "in recognition of exemplary contribution and participation in developing the Biological Diversity Assessment for the Rocky Mountain Region as part of the amendment of the Rocky Mountain Regional Guide." USDA Forest Service, Region 2.
  • Elective Member, 1991
    American Ornithologists' Union
  • Certificate of Appreciation, 1991
    "for workshop assistance at the IV Congreso de Ornitologia Neotropical, Quito, Ecuador.
  • Cash Award and Plaque, 1990
    "for demonstration of high professional skill leadership in drafting a Forest Service program for the conservation of Neotropical migratory birds. USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C.
  • Award of Excellence, 1988
    Presented to Employees of Forestry Sciences Lab, Laramie, WY by the Station Directorate.
  • Outstanding Research Publication Cash Award & Plaque, 1984
    Parental Expenditure of Time and Energy in the Abert's Towhee", published in The Auk. Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Fort Collins, CO.


Research Highlights


Climate change and wildfire effects in aridland riparian ecosystems

A frequently discussed function of aridland riparian ecosystems is the contribution of woody riparian plants to breeding bird habitat. The struc ...


Forest Service Science Bolsters Sagebrush and Sage Grouse Conservation

The Forest Service has been a leader for several decades in developing science and applications to support conservation and restoration of sageb ...


How removal of invasive trees affects nesting birds in riparian areas

Researchers studied nesting success in areas dominated by native tree species such as willows, areas dominated by invasive species such as tamar ...


Providing science-based information for future conservation and management efforts of sagebrush ecosystems

Conservation and restoration of sagebrush ecosystems is the first step in reducing the threat to the greater sage-grouse. Holistic management of ...


The Effects of Climate Change in Grasslands, Shrublands, and Deserts

Studies show that by the turn of the century, climate in the Western United States may be incompatible with current vegetation types, resulting ...


Last updated on : 10/18/2021