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Successfully Bridging the Gap: Eastern US Models of Fire Science and Management Collaboration

PANEL DISCUSSION: Thursday, February 15, 2024 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM ET

Land management programs are frequently confronted with the imperative of incorporating the most advanced scientific knowledge into their decision-making processes along with filling voids in research needed to move along effective management. Nevertheless, the persistent disparities between the realms of science and management often impede effective collaboration. In this panel, we will draw inspiration from successful case studies in the eastern United States, where land managers and scientists have forged pioneering partnerships, yielding tangible advancements in the field.

This panel discussion is pending approval for 1.5 Category 1 CFE's by the Society of American Foresters.

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Dr. Nick Skowronski (Moderator)
Nick Skowronski has been a Research Forester with the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station (NRS) since 2007. 
He has also served as the prescribed burn coordinator at Ft. Dix, NJ and as a research technician for the NRS.  Nick’s research is focused on the impacts that land management activities have on fuel loading, carbon cycling, and habitat quality. He is particularly interested in estimating canopy fuels in three-dimensional space using lasers on the ground and in aircraft.  Having worked formerly in fire management, Nick is extremely interested in developing better relationships between scientists and land managers so that research can become more integrated with the needs in the field.


Lane Johnson (Panelist)
Lane Johnson is a Research Forester at the Cloquet Forestry Center, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, University of Minnesota. Lane has been with the Cloquet Forestry Center since November 2017, returning to Duluth from northern New Mexico. Lane is routinely involved in a blend of research, education, outreach, and forest management activities. His research focuses on the fire ecology of red pine forests in the Great Lakes region where he uses tree-rings and other historical records to better understand the ecological and cultural history of fire-dependent plant communities, and apply this information to contemporary forest policy and management. In his free time, you might find Lane on a Northwoods trail, in his home kitchen, or somewhere in between.


Laurel Kays (Panelist)
Laurel Kays is the Fire Learning Network Manager based out of The Nature Conservancy’s North America Fire unit. Prior to joining TNC in 2022, she worked for NC State University Extension Forestry on wildland fire outreach and education projects across the Southeastern United States, including coordinating outreach for the Southern Fire Exchange. She has a diverse background in conservation, outreach, and education that has included work based in Michigan, Wyoming, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Laurel holds an M.S. in Forestry from NC State University and a B.A.  in Government & Politics and American Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. She spends as much time as possible outside with her misbehaving Jack Russel mix Milton.


Vern Northrup (Panelist)
Vern Northrup has spent 24 years as a Fire Operations Specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, working on wildfires both across the West and close to home in Minnesota. Vern is a Fond du Lac Band elder and a visual storyteller, with his photography and words featured in his book, Akinomaage: 
Teaching from the Earth, and in a traveling exhibit which has been shown across the state.


Dr. Joseph O'Brien (Panelist)
Dr. Joseph O’Brien is a Research Ecologist and Project Leader of the Athens Prescribed Fire Science Laboratory of the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from SUNY Geneseo, and his MS and PhD in Biological Sciences from FIU. Since joining the Forest Service in 2002, Joe’s research has centered on wildland fire science, specifically focusing on informing the use of fire to meet forest management objectives though a detailed understanding of the mechanisms driving fire behavior and fire effects. To achieve these goals, he has had to pioneer in-fire energy measurement techniques and wildland fire experiments. He also has 20 years of operational fire experience and is qualified as a Squad Boss, part of his commitment to the coproduction model of research and development. His training and prior work has given him expertise in plant ecology, ecophysiology, conservation science and forest
management. He has worked on fire management globally, with ongoing projects in several Latin American and Caribbean nations.

Our Panel

List of resources shared during the discussion:

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