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Megan M. Friggens

Megan Friggens

Research Ecologist

333 Broadway SE, Suite 115
Albuquerque, NM 87102-3660
Contact Megan M. Friggens

Current Research

I use a variety of methods to assess future threats and impacts to wildlife species and habitats arising from climate change and related disturbances. I recently applied a coupled model approach to assess habitat and species vulnerability to climate and wildfire in the southwestern U.S. Currently, I am developing a spatially explicit model to predict fire damage on cultural resources within New Mexico and adapting the vulnerability assessment framework to explore the implications of climate change impacts for fire regimes within the Southwest. I am also actively involved with a number of state and federally sponsored climate change vulnerability assessments for western and southwestern ecosystems.

Research Interests

My research interests include landscape scale analysis of disturbance processes (fire, drought, land conversion, pathogens and parasites); climate change impacts on wildlife species; habitat change due to changing climate; wildlife disease ecology; wildlife disease as an invasive species issue; and, conservation biology.

Past Research

My previous research projects include:

  • Developing a database of climate change vulnerability assessments for aquatic systems;
  • Federal land management decision making processes for open spaces in the Southwest;
  • Vulnerability assessments for riparian species along the Rio Grande, New Mexico, and in the Sky Islands of Arizona;
  • Climate change impacts within the Western U.S.;
  • Climate mediated mechanisms of plague introduction into prairie dogs;
  • Predicting the presence and spread of zoonotic disease;
  • Estimating the effect of anthropogenic disturbance on the risk of flea-borne disease transmission;
  • Identifying the effect of fire on wildlife disease.

Relevant Publications:
Friggens, Megan; Raish, Carol; Finch, Deborah; McSweeney, Alice. 2014. The influence of personal belief, agency mission and city size on open space decision making processes in three southwestern cities. Urban Ecosystems. doi: 10.1007/s11252-014-0419-3.

Friggens, Megan M.; Finch, Deborah M.; Bagne, Karen E.; Coe, Sharon J.; Hawksworth, David L. 2013. Vulnerability of species to climate change in the    
Southwest: terrestrial species of the Middle Rio Grande. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-306. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,  Rocky Mountain Research Station. 191 p.

Friggens, Megan M.; Beier, Paul. 2010. Anthropogenic disturbance and the risk of flea-borne disease transmission. Oecologia. 164: 809-820.

Why This Research is Important

Much of my research aims to help managers and conservationists identify successful strategies for addressing issues relating to species conservation under global change. Climate change affects species' interactions in unpredictable ways and is likely to increase the negative impact of invasive species and disease. Synergistic climate-fire impacts are of particular importance within the western U.S. Managers are faced with the task of making decisions under a number of uncertainties relating to future conditions and species' responses to those conditions. I use syntheses, models, and actively engage managers to reduce this uncertainty and identify probable outcomes to help identify adaptive management strategies for conserving critical resources.

Bagne, Karen E.; Friggens, Megan M.; Coe, Sharon J.; Finch, Deborah M. 2014. The importance of assessing climate change vulnerability to address species conservation. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management. 5(2): 450-462, e1944-687X.


  • Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, Ph.D., Forestry, 2010
  • University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM, M.S., Biology, 2002
  • University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM, B.S., Biology, 1999
  • Professional Organizations

    • The Wildlife Society, Member ( 2002 to present )
    • Ecological Society of America, Member ( 2000 to present )


    Department of Interior, Partners in Conservation Award, 2011
    Received for contributions to "Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A guide to climate change vulnerability assessment"


    Friggens, Megan M.; Williams, Mary I.; Bagne, Karen; Wixom, Tosha T.; Cushman, Samuel A., 2018. Effects of climate change on terrestrial animals [Chapter 9]
    Ojima, Dennis S.; Iverson, Louis R.; Sohngen, Brent L.; Vose, James M.; Woodall, Christopher W.; Domke, Grant M.; Peterson, David L.; Littell, Jeremy S.; Matthews, Stephen N.; Prasad, Anantha M.; Peters, Matthew P.; Yohe, Gary W.; Friggens, Megan M., 2014. Risk assessment [Chapter 9]
    Finch, Deborah M.; Bagne, Karen; Friggens, Megan M.; Smith, D. M.; Brodhead, K. M., 2011. A review of climate change effects on terrestrial rangeland birds
    Finch, Deborah M.; Friggens, Megan M.; Bagne, Karen, 2011. Case Study 3: Species vulnerability assessment for the Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico
    Bagne, Karen; Finch, Deborah M.; Friggens, Megan M., 2011. Vulnerability of amphibians to climate change: implications for rangeland management
    A map of the three focal areas of th Southern Rockies LCC
    Rocky Mountain Research Station Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Program is working with the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative to conduct landscape analyses for conservation planning for natural and cultural resources in two focal areas: the Four Corners and the Upper Rio Grande regions of the Southwest.
    Riparian habitat along the Rio Grande, New Mexico
    Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists have developed a coupled approach that combines species distribution models, predictions for future fire regime, and climate change vulnerability assessments to estimate the interactive impacts of climate change and fire on species that reside within riparian habitats in the Southwest.
    Researchers and collaborators at the Rocky Mountain Research Station Albuquerque Lab have pursued several lines of research to better manage prairie dog colonies in the Southwest. The research team developed a novel approach to estimate density of prairie dogs, assessed mechanisms of prairie dog expansion, and explored the role of fleas, an important element of the plague lifecycle, in initiating and perpetuating plague outbreaks.
    In 2012, the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) identified a need for synthesis products and tools to help managers identify vulnerability assessments and literature relevant to the Interior Western U.S. In response to this need, Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists compiled climate change vulnerability literature for the western U.S. with a focus on the states and regions within the Southern Rockies LCC boundary.
    The aquatics synthesis project aimed to improve access and application of relevant climate change data for aquatic resource managers and researchers. The Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative, recognizing the need for syntheses and tools for climate change adaptation, sponsored this effort.
    The ArcBurn project uses controlled laboratory experiments and instrumentation on prescribed burns and wildfires to determine critical damage thresholds for cultural resources including archaeological sites, artifacts, and heritage resources. Data and observations on fire effects and effectiveness of fuels treatments are then used to develop guidelines for best treatment practices and protection of archaeological resources.