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Christopher D. O'Connor

Christopher D. O'Connor
Research Ecologist
Human Dimensions
800 East Beckwith Avenue
Missoula, MT 59801-5801
United States
Current Research

Kit O’Connor is a Research Ecologist with the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Human Dimensions Program. His research is focused on integrating fire, insect disturbance, and changing climate into landscape planning and incident response.  Kit is currently developing and testing a suite of analytical tools to facilitate strategic wildfire risk planning and incident- level decision support on landscapes throughout the Western U.S.

Past Research

Kit’s previous work was centered on ecological reconstruction of landscape changes, response to climate and human impacts, and projected changes to forest and disturbance dynamics in response to projected future climate conditions.

Research Interest
Wildfire Planning and Response, Fire Ecology, Fire Management, Forest Disturbance Ecology, Entomology
  • University of Arizona, Ph.D., Natural Resource Management, 2013
  • University of Quebec at Montreal, M.S. Biology, Forest Entomology, 2009
  • Pennsylvania State University, B.S., Agricultural Science, 1999
Awards & Recognition
  • Deputy Chief's Science Delivery Award, 2020
    USDA Forest Service Deputy Chief of Research and Development
  • Station Science Delivery Award, 2019
    Rocky Mountain Research Station Annual Awards Ceremony
  • Outstanding Dissertation Award, 2014
    University of Arizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment
  • Andrew Ellicott Douglass Memorial Scholarship, 2012
    University of Arizona Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research
  • Western Forest Insect Work Conference Memorial Scholarship, 2011
    WFIWC Annual Memorial Scholarship recipient and key note speaker
  • Science and Society Fellowship, 2010
    University of Arizona Biosphere 2
  • Fulbright Fellowship, 2006
    Institute of International Education, U.S. Department of State
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Citations of Non-Forest Service Publications
  • Brais, S., T. T. Work, É. Robert, C. D. O’Connor, M. Strukelj, A. Bose, D. Celentano, and B. D. Harvey. 2013. Ecosystem Responses to Partial Harvesting in Eastern Boreal Mixedwood Stands. Forests 4:364-385.

    O’Connor, C. D., G. M. Garfin, D. A. Falk, and T. W. Swetnam. 2011. Human pyrogeography: a new synergy of fire, climate and people is reshaping ecosystems across the globe. Geography Compass 5:329-350.

    O’Connor, C.D., Koprowski, J.L., Lynch, A.M., Falk, D.F. 2014. Mt. Graham red squirrel use of forest habitat: Historical, present, and future perspectives. Final Report for U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Research Joint Venture Agreement 08-253. School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, Tucson. 33 p.

  • O’Connor, C. D., M. P. Thompson, and F. Rodríguez y Silva. 2016. Getting Ahead of the Wildfire Problem: Quantifying and Mapping Management Challenges and Opportunities. Geosciences 6:35.

Research Highlights

Snag Hazard to Firefighters Persists Long After the Smoke Has Cleared

Year: 2019
A new tool developed through collaboration between USDA Forest Service and Oregon State University researchers tracks treefall through time and may just save lives. The researchers found that snag hazard to fire responders decreased significantly 10-years post-fire, but that in some areas, unsafe co...

Forests transformed by fire exclusion help us understand climate resilience

Year: 2018
Fire exclusion can cause rapid changes to forest species composition and structure. These changes can make a forest more susceptible to drought, insects, and extreme fire. By restoring fire as an ecosystem process to some forests, we may be able to reduce their vulnerability to these conditions.