Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Constance I. Millar

Constance I. Millar
Scientist Emerita
Ecosystem Function and Health Program
800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710
United States
Current Research

My early career addressed questions on population-, evolutionary-, and conservation-genetics of conifer forests. Currently my research team focuses on the role of historic and ongoing climate change in high-elevation forest ecosystems of Great Basin mountains, including the eastern Sierra Nevada. We use tools from Quaternary Sciences, primarily dendrochronology, combined with traditional forest ecology to investigate effects of historic climate change on structure, composition, and function of subalpine meadows and forests in the Sierra Nevada and western Great Basin. Our current emphasis is on dynamics of treeline ecotones, with attention to thermal constraints and microclimate feedbacks. As part of the international GLORIA program (Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments), we monitor responses of alpine plants to climate change at target regions in California and Nevada. In addition to forest and plant ecology, I am interested in alpine geomorphology, especially periglacial processes related to formation and maintenance of rock glaciers and talus landforms. These features and their thermal relations provide a case study for the role microclimate processes decoupled from regional conditions. As part of these rocky ecosystems, we study American pika (Ochotona princeps) a small rabbit relative that depends on talus and associated vegetation for habitat.

My other research area is the integration of science with policy at the ecoregional and interdisciplinary scale. I am especially interested in communicating and interpreting current research on climate change and its ecological effects in conservation and restoration contexts. In the early 2000s, I joined with colleagues to form the Consortium for Integrated Climate Research in Western Mountains (CIRMOUNT), which I current chair.

I have been working with a camera trapper to photograph wildlife diversity at American pika haypiles. See photographs from our collection housed at the USFS Research Data Archive:

  • Hickman, Kenneth T.; Millar, Constance I. 2020. Camera trap photographs from American pika haypiles in California. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive.

In the video, Climate Change and the American Pika, I talk about how the small montane mammals in the Eastern Sierra have actually been shown to adapt to the changing conditions.

PIKA INFORMATION: Please write me if you are interested in the latest copy of our pika site-occurrence database. The form we use for rapid-assessment of pika sites is the Pika Survey Form.

  • University of California, Ph.D., Genetics, 1985
  • University of California, M.S., Wildland Resources Science, 1979
  • University of Washington, B.S., Forest Science, 1977
Awards & Recognition
  • AAAS Fellow , 2020
    American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C.
  • Robert F. Lewis Pioneer in Science Award , 2020
    U.S. Forest Service, Washington, D.C.
  • Ambassador Award and AGU Fellow, 2019
    American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, CA.
  • Leadership Recognition, 2018
    Smith et al. Recognizing women leaders in fire science. Fire. doi:10.3390/fire1020030
  • Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research Editor’s Choice of the Year Award , 2018
    Distribution, climatic relationships, and status of American pikas (Ochotona princeps) in the Great Basin, USA, by CI Millar, DL Delany, KA Hersey, MR Jeffress, AT. Smith, J Van Gunst, and RD Westfall
  • Publication Award, 2016
    Ecological Society of America; 1 of 25 papers recognized as “Notable Papers of the Centennial”: Millar et al. 2007. Ecological Applications 17:2145-2151.
  • Director’s Distinguished Science Award, 2016
    USFS PSW Research Station.
  • Senior Scientist ST, 2014
    USFS Research & Development, Washington, DC.
  • Chief’s Excellence in Science and Technology Award, 2013
    USFS, Washington Office, Washington, D.C.
  • Deputy Chief’s Distinguished Scientist Award, 2010
    USFS Research & Development, Washington Office, Washington, DC.
  • Decadal Award, PEW Scholar in Conservation and the Environment, 2002
    PEW Charitable Trusts, Ann Arbor, MI.
  • Scientific Achievement Award, 1995
    International Union of Forest Research Organizations, Tampere, Finland.
  • PEW Scholar in Conservation and the Environment, 1992
    PEW Charitable Trusts, Ann Arbor, MI.
  • Outstanding Scientist, 1991
    USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station
Other Publications
Research Highlights

The American Pika: From Icon of Climate Vulnerability to Model of Resilience

Year: 2016
Despite their small size, mountain dwelling American pikas have gained a big reputation for their supposed vulnerability to climate change and likelihood of extinction as a result of warming temperatures. But pikas have a suite of options including cool micro-climates and behavioral adaptations that...

Up, down, and Around: High-elevation Pines Respond to Warming in More Ways Than One

Year: 2015
Under warming climates, models predict that high-elevation species will migrate up mountain slopes tracking cool conditions. With nowhere to go once they reach mountain summits, populations of subalpine and alpine species are projected to go extinct. Forest Service researchers found that subalpine l...