US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
You are here: Home / People / Profile


The sites listed below are external or third-party sites which the Forest Service has provided for reference only.

Paul Hessburg

Paul F. Hessburg, Sr.

Research Landscape Ecologist
1133 N. Western Avenue
Suite 108A
United States

Phone: 509-664-1722
Contact Paul F. Hessburg, Sr.

Curriculum vitae (470 KB PDF)

Current Research

My current research focuses on four themes: the landscape and disturbance ecology of western US forests, climate change effects on forests, wildfire resilience mechanisms, and the ecology and sociology of landscape restoration.

Research Interests

  • Hierarchical dimensions of pre-management and modern era landscapes
  • Landscape spatial patterns and connectivity relations
  • Changes to spatial patterns and impacts of those changes on successional conditions, disturbance processes, and habitats of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
  • Anticipated climate change effects on 21st century landscapes and needed adaptations

Past Research

My past research has included:

  • Historical and current vegetation patterns and associated changes in insect and disease hazards, wildfire behavior, and smoke emissions in forests of eastern Oregon and Washington
  • Designing a structural classification for Inland Northwest forest vegetation
  • Determining social and biophysical correlates of change in forest landscape structure
  • Developing decision support systems for integrated landscape evaluation and restoration planning, for evaluating severe wildfire danger and prioritizing vegetation and fuels treatments, and for allocating fuels budgets to Forest Service Regions and Forests
  • Finding temporal patterns of climate regimes in the Inland West
  • Re-examining fire severity relations in pre-management era mixed conifer forests
  • Thinning and prescribed fire effects on bark beetle-induced mortality, snag abundance, and pattern in an eastern Cascade Range dry forest
  • Characterizing native fire regimes and landscape resilience mechanisms
  • Evaluating soils risks associated with severe wildfire and ground-based logging

Why This Research is Important

In our lab, we work under the ecological paradigm that ecosystem properties on the landscape are continuously emerging over space and time. This concept has huge implications for land managers, showing that management needs to be a dynamic problem-solving process rather than one of stand-level prescriptions and static reserves. Our research has helped to change the way managers think about and manage forests and grasslands. It has demonstrated the need to revise static reserve strategies in disturbance-prone dry forests, describing instead a whole-landscape conservation model. Prior to our research efforts, restoration of fire-prone forests was defined at the stand scale, usually as a simple re-creation of site-specific conditions believed to have existed there a century prior. Our work has radically shifted the frame from the stand to the landscape and connected pattern to process, transforming the discussion from ‘Which trees should we leave?’ to ‘How do we create an appropriate pattern on the landscape?’ This research has enabled stakeholders, scientists, and managers to work together to restore the conditions that support characteristic fire and sustain ecosystem complexity, concepts that will influence the future of national forest management for years to come.


  • Oregon State University (Summa Cum Laude), Ph.D. Botany And Plant Pathology Ecology and Epidemiology of Forest Pathogens, Forest Pathology Forest Entomology, Mycology, Lichenology, Molecular Plant Pathology 1984
  • University of Minnesota (Magna Cum Laude), B.S. Forestry Ecosystem Analysis and Silviculture Forest Pathology, Forest Entomology, Forest Soils, Plant Physiology, Forest Resource Management 1978

Professional Experience

  • GS-408-15, Research Landscape Ecologist, USDA-FS, PNW Research Station
    2008 - Current
  • Professor (Affiliate), College of the Environment, SEFS, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
    2003 - Current
  • Professor (Affiliate), Dept. of Nat. Res. Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
    2002 - Current
  • Professor (Affiliate), Dept. of Geography, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA
    1995 - Current
  • Professor (Affiliate), Dept. of Forestry, Range, & Wildlife, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID
    1994 - Current
  • Science Team Leader, Eastside Forest Health Restoration Team, Managing Disturbance Regimes Program, PNW Research Station.
    2002 - 2011
  • GS-408-14, Research Ecologist, USDA-FS, PNW Research Station
    2002 - 2007
  • GS-434-13, Research Plant Pathologist, USDA-FS, PNW Research Station
    1994 - 2002
  • Landscape Ecology Team Co-lead, Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, Walla Walla, WA.
    1993 - 1997
  • Research and Development Team Co-lead, Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, Walla Walla, WA.
    1993 - 1997
  • Landscape Assessment Lead, Eastside Forest Ecosystem Health Assessment
    1992 - 1993
  • GS-434-12, Area Plant Pathologist, Eastern Washington Zone, Wenatchee, WA.
    1990 - 1992
  • GS-434-12, Plant Pathologist, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR
    1987 - 1990
  • GS-434-11, Plant Pathologist, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR
    1985 - 1987
  • GS-434-11, Plant Pathologist , Southwestern Region, Albuquerque, NM
    1985 - 1985
  • GS-434-9, Plant Pathologist , Southwestern Region, Albuquerque, NM
    1984 - 1984
  • Graduate Research Assistant , Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
    1978 - 1984

Professional Organizations

  • Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, Executive Council (2003 - 2016)
  • Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, Chairman (2003 - 2016)
  • Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, Director (1998 - 2016)
  • Association for Fire Ecology, Vice President (2010 - 2013)
  • Association for Fire Ecology, Director (2008 - 2013)

Awards & Recognition

  • Distinguished Scientist, PNW Research Station, , 2017
    Station Director's Award
  • Distinguished Scientist, USDA-FS, Research and Development, 2017
    Deputy Chief of Research Award
  • USDA Science Findings , 2017
    Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Update , 2017
    Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA-FS, Superior Performance Awards, 2016
    41 awards, from 1984-2016
  • USDA Science Findings , 2015
    Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Findings , 2014
    Research Award, $10,000.00
  • Wilberforce Fellowship , 2014
    Conservation Science Communication
  • USDA Science Findings , 2010
    Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Update , 2005
    Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Update , 2002
    Research Award, $10,000.00
  • USDA Science Findings , 1997
    Research Award, $10,000.00
  • Bayley Doctoral Research Fellow, College of Science, Oregon State University, 1984
    Awarded to the top doctoral student in the Colleges of Science
  • Bayley Doctoral Research Fellow, College of Science, Oregon State University, 1983
    Awarded to the top doctoral student in the Colleges of Science

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


Analyses of landscape management strategies for mixed-severity fire regime forests in Oregon, Washington, and Northern California leads to new management and policy paradigms for fire

Nine strategies aimed at reconciling potentially conflicting management goals for forests having mixed-severity fire regimes are being used in d ...


Seven Core Principles Can Guide Restoration of Fire-prone Inland Pacific Landscapes

More than a century of forest and fire management of Inland Pacific landscapes has transformed their successional and disturbance dynamics. Curr ...


Synthesis on Mixed-Conifer Forest Science Provides Scientific and Practical Guidance to Landscape Restoration

Forest Service and university scientists developed a comprehensive synthesis of the best available science about mixed conifer forests in easter ...


Last updated on : 10/19/2018