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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Paulette L. Ford

Research Ecologist
333 Broadway SE, Suite 115
New Mexico
United States

Phone: 505-724-3660
Fax: 505-724-3688
Contact Paulette L. Ford

Current Research

My current research is a comprehensive program focused on the long-term effects of disturbance (drought, disease, fire) on shortgrass steppe and desert grasslands, and pinyon-juniper woodlands. The studies are aimed at understanding how these unique and important systems function in the face of changing disturbance patterns and climate including large and devastating wildfires. Main studies include: (1) landscape-scale patterns of fire and drought in the Great Plains; (2) long-term experimental research on the effects of season and frequency of fire in shortgrass steppe in the southern Great Plains and Chihuahuan Desert grassland; (3) state-transition simulation modeling as a decision support tool for southern Great Plains managers; (4) long-term carbon dynamics in aridland ecosystems; and (5) global-change-type drought in piñon-juniper woodland ecosystems in the American Southwest.

Research Interests

My research interests focus on the role of disturbance, (i.e., fire, drought, infestations, pathogens), in structuring grassland, desert, and woodland communities; and ecosystem resilience.

Past Research

  • The effects of fire and mowing on expansion of re-established black-tailed prairie dog colonies in Chihuahuan Desert grasslands.
  • Black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) response to seasonality and frequency of fire in shortgrass steppe.
  • Habitat and breeding ecology of amphibians.
  • Fleas and lice of mammals in New Mexico.
  • Coccidia (Apicomplexa) from heteromyid rodents in the southwestern United States, Baja California, and northern Mexico with three new species from Chaetodipus hispidus.

Why This Research is Important

  • The American Southwest is characterized by extreme drought conditions accompanied by rising temperatures, causing widespread tree mortality in pinyon-juniper woodlands. This die-off occurred across millions of acres of the southwestern United States and killed up to 350 million pinyon pines. Because the region has continued to experience frequent droughts and high temperatures, on-going research examines whether even drought tolerant junipers may succumb to increased aridity and begin dying at increased rates, potentially significantly altering fire regimes.
  • Climate change is a pressing environmental issue that requires measuring the exchange of greenhouse gases between terrestrial systems and the atmosphere. Reductions in atmospheric CO2 concentration through enhanced terrestrial carbon storage may help slow or reverse the rate of global climate change. As a result, Federal land management agencies, such as the US Forest Service, are now beginning to implement management policies to increase carbon storage.
  • Fire is a key management tool in the southwestern US, yet fire management strategies must be designed within a context of global climate change, which includes a more variable climate with more frequent extreme events, and potentially a shift in winter/summer rainfall patterns. Given the uncertainty of future scenarios for climate change and climate variability in the southwestern US we need to know now how fire seasonality, and over the long-term fire frequency, interacts with climate variability to affect biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in these highly dynamic aridland ecosystems.
  • The High Plains states are in the midst of ongoing extreme drought, experiencing below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures for the past several years. Drought is expected to persist or intensify. In addition, climate change is predicted to have multiple effects on fire regimes, including more large-scale fires that significantly exceed those of recent decades.


  • University of Arizona, Ph.D. Renewable Natural Resources Studies (Major) Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (Minor) 2000
  • University of New Mexico, M.S. Biology 1992
  • University of New Mexico, B.S. Biology 1989
  • University of New Mexico, B.S. Psychology 1989

Professional Organizations

  • Society for Range Management, Associate Editor (2015 - Current)
    Associate Editor for Rangeland Ecology & Management.
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Member International Editorial Council For Eloss (2005 - Current)
    Member UNESCO International Editorial Council for Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems.
  • Society for Range Management, Member (1999 - Current)
  • The Wildlife Society, Member (1999 - Current)
  • Ecological Society of America, Member (1997 - Current)

Awards & Recognition

  • Chief's Honor Certificate of Appreciation, Tom Tidwell, Chief, USDA Forest Service, 2017
    “Thank you for your contribution as an author of “Understanding the Impacts of Drought on the Nation’s Forests and Grasslands: Providing a Scientific Foundation for Effective Management Responses.” Category of Sustaining Forests a Grasslands.
  • Certificate of Merit, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2017
    "For Superior performance in accomplishing mission work of benefit to the Forest Service, the Rocky Mountain Research Station, the Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Program and stakeholders and partners."
  • USDA Forest Service Inspiring Women Award, 2017
    Inspiring Women Award, Outstanding Mentor/Coach, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
  • Certificate of Merit, 2016
    “For superior performance in Fiscal Year 2016 for collaborating with the Southern Plains Climate Hub, and with other programs on National Grassland research and tool development.” USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Albuquerque, NM
  • Certificate of Recognition , 2016
    “As a 2016 WOC STEM Conference Seminar Panelist- Women in Tech: More Than Just a Pipeline Issue.” Consumers Energy, General Motors, Prairie View A&M University, Oakland University and the Women of Color Magazine.
  • National Rangeland Management Award, Tom Tidwell, Chief, USDA Forest Service., 2015
    "In recognition of outstanding achievement in Rangelands Research and Development."
  • National Grasslands Research and Technology Award. USDA, National Grassland Council., 2013
    "For long-term experimental research on the Kiowa National Grassland on the effects of season and frequency of fire on shortgrass steppe, and educating fire personnel on the effects of prescribed burning on shortgrass prairie ecosystems."
  • Award, USDA National Grassland Council, 2011
    “For your Leadership to the USDA Forest Service National Grasslands Council 2008-2011, for serving as the Research Representative."
  • National Grasslands Research and Technology Award. USDA, National Grassland Council. , 2010
    “For long-term experimental research on the Kiowa National Grassland on the effects of season and frequency of fire on shortgrass steppe.”
  • Certificate of Merit, David Cleaves, Station Director, USDA Forest Service, RMRS , 2006
    "In recognition of your dedicated efforts as a member of the Science First Restructuring Team, from which the design emerged for a new 21st Century Rocky Mountain Research Station.”
  • USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station Best Technology Transfer Award , 2006
    For two volumes of RMRS-GTR-135 “Assessment of Grassland Ecosystem Conditions in the Southwestern United States” in collaboration with other RMRS scientists.
  • National Grasslands Research and Technology Award. USDA, National Grassland Council., 2004
    “For long-term experimental research on the Kiowa National Grassland on the effects of season and frequency of fire on shortgrass steppe.”
  • Certificate of Merit, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2004
    “For your contribution to the R3/RMRS Grassland Assessment Team, including participation in the team process and authorship of one or more chapters of Volume 1 of the General Technical Report.”

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


Climate Change Impacts on Future Carbon Stores and Management of Warm Deserts of the United States

Forest Service scientists summarized studies that focus on key components of carbon exchange across the warm deserts of North America to determi ...


Effects of prescribed fire on wildlife and wildlife habitat in selected ecosystems of North America

Prescribed fire provides an important resource management tool that is effective at maintaining or enhancing habitats for many species of wildli ...


Rangeland Drought: Effects and Adaptation Strategies

There is a critical need to understand how drought affects rangelands because drought severity and drought-associated disturbances are expected ...


Last updated on : 07/26/2021