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Crystal S. Stonesifer

Crystal S. Stonesifer
Ecologist
Human Dimensions
800 East Beckwith Avenue
Missoula, MT 59801-5801
United States
Phone
406-542-3249
Current Research

Crystal’s role at the Rocky Mountain Research Station often extends outside of research, into direct operational support of active wildfire incidents and various USDA Forest Service Washington Office and Regional efforts. In a research capacity, Crystal continues to build upon the state of the science in wildfire suppression and effectiveness, leading independent research projects and collaborating with colleagues to publish peer-reviewed papers in the subject areas of resource use and efficiency, suppression effectiveness, spatial wildfire risk assessments, and risk management. She is a key member of the Wildfire Risk Management Science Team (https://www.fs.usda.gov/rmrs/groups/wildfire-risk-management-science-team), lending expertise in data systems, resource use, and aviation.

She has provided aviation subject matter expertise for the Washington Office Risk Management Assistance (RMA) efforts since 2017 (https://wfmrda.nwcg.gov/rma). She developed a system for reporting incident-scale daily aviation use utilizing dispatch records, flight following, airtanker and helicopter base reports, and Additional Telemetry Unit (ATU) door event data (called the Aviation Use Summary; AUS). The AUS is delivered on demand to active wildfire incidents, so her research demands and availability shift significantly during the active wildfire season or shoulder season events. Crystal is continually working to improve AUS products, utility, and delivery, including collaborating on the development of a relative aviation effectiveness geospatial tool. Currently, she is curating a national-scale dataset of all federal airtanker drops. The geographic, temporal, and environmental characteristics of these drops will be analyzed, and the results will support a variety of research questions, including how land use ownership, jurisdictions, and proximity to human values potentially affect fire suppression aircraft use. Collaborations with several university researchers utilizing machine learning and econometric models will explore relationships between airtanker drops, fire growth, and related costs.

Crystal frequently meets Washington Office (WO) requests for efficient and accurate analyses from federal datasets to help FAM personnel answer urgent, emerging, and anticipated questions about aviation, resource use, and expenditures. She has historically collaborated extensively with Colorado State University researchers on a variety of resource allocation, efficiency, and suppression effectiveness projects, including an Interagency Hotshot dispatch model designed to minimize travel time and workload fatigue. Related, she led efforts to create, administer, analyze, and document results of a survey aimed at Agency fire managers to characterize their perceptions of resource type importance, scarcity, and substitutability. These projects all address important fundamental questions related to understanding resource use and are foundational to improving resource effectiveness and efficiency in the fire response system.

Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Calkin, David E.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Belval, Erin J. 2021. Is this flight necessary? The Aviation Use Summary (AUS): A framework for strategic, risk-informed aviation decision support. Forests. 12: 1078.

Belval, Erin J.; Calkin, David E.; Wei, Yu; Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Thompson, Matthew P.; Masarie, Alex. 2018. Examining dispatching practices for Interagency Hotshot Crews to reduce seasonal travel distance and manage fatigue. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 27: 569-580.

Stonesifer, Crystal S.; Calkin, David E.; Hand, Michael S. 2017. Federal fire managers' perceptions of the importance, scarcity and substitutability of suppression resources. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 26: 598-603.

Research Interest
  • Suppression effectiveness
  • Aviation use in fire suppression
  • Improved decision support systems for strategic risk management for wildland fire
  • Understanding and characterizing risk and exposure for fire suppression personnel
  • Innovative data collection systems for fire and forest management
  • Performance measurement systems in fire and forest management to establish accountability and track Agency progress
  • Increased understanding and efficiency of resource allocation in fire management
  • Shared stewardship and cross-boundary natural resource planning and partnerships
Education
  • University of Montana, M.S. Resource Conservation, post-fire watershed effects modeling; hydrology, 2007
Professional Experience
  • Ecologist,  USDA Forest Service, RMRS, Human Dimensions,  2015 - Current
    In my current position, I have broadened the impact of my work outside of research by providing more direct operational support to active wildfire incidents and various Forest Service Washington Office and Regional efforts. I am a key member of the Wildfire Risk Management Science Team, where I bring unique expertise in aviation use, research, and related data systems. Simultaneously, I continue to build upon the state of the science, leading independent research projects and collaborating with colleagues to publish peer-reviewed academic papers in the subject areas of resource use and efficiency, suppression effectiveness, spatial wildfire risk assessments, and risk management.
  • Program Analyst - 60 day detail,  USDA Forest Service, Operations and Risk Management, Washington Office,  2020 - 2020
    In this promotional detail, I worked directly with the Operations and Risk Management Assistant Director on a special assignment to lead efforts to assess barriers and facilitate automation and utilization of event tracking data from fire suppression aircraft (Additional Telemetry Unit – ATU). This work involved independent planning and executing of major liaison activities that support an organizational program with national scale implications.
  • Program Analyst - 120 day detail,  USDA Forest Service, Fire and Aviation Management, Washington Office,  2019 - 2020
    In this promotional detail, I provided analytical capacity to support Fire and Aviation Management's core operations and strategic planning efforts. I independently directed analyses of historical aircraft use data and authored strategic planning documents and white papers for internal use.
  • Biological Scientist,  USDA Forest Service, RMRS, Human Dimensions,  2011 - 2015
    I provided expertise in suppression resource movement and use, aviation, fire ecology, simulation modeling, spatial analysis, risk assessments, hazard modeling, and decision support. I supported senior researchers through collaborative projects and independently directed research leading to peer-reviewed publications. After gaining Agency-specific experience, I also provided subject matter expertise in fire resource and aviation data systems, including ROSS, ABS, and OLMS.
  • Remote Sensing Image Analyst,  University of Montana, National Center for Landscape Fire Analysis,  2008 - 2011
    This position was a promotion to a role with greater responsibility for operations, direction, and management of Fire Intelligence Module field activities and an increased level of research engagement and support for various research projects.
  • Fire Technology Specialist,  University of Montana, National Center for Landscape Fire Analysis,  2007 - 2007
    I served as the primary logistical coordinator and geospatial analyst for the Fire Intelligence Module (FIM), which provided enhanced technological, analytical, and communications capabilities for fire and forest managers. I also provided complex geospatial, general programmatic, and research support for a wide variety of concurrent research projects.
Featured Publications
Other Publications
https://www.fs.usda.gov/research/about/people/csstonesifer