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Deborah M. Finch

Deborah M. Finch
Scientist Emeritus
Maintaining Resilient Dryland Ecosystems
333 Broadway SE, Suite 115
Albuquerque, NM 87102-3407
United States
Current Research

I am a scientist emeritus in the Maintaining Resilient Dryland Ecosystems Science program and focus much of my personal research on riparian and rangeland environments, specifically evaluating the outcomes of restoration treatments, fire and the removal of invasive plant species and fuel loads to reduce the risk of fire and determining the effects of those measures on biological diversity, threatened, endangered and rare species, Neotropical migratory birds, riparian resources, and interactions among different elements of ecosystems. Through much of my career, I have evaluated how processes and functions change and how managers can improve conditions and reduce vulnerability of managed and sensitive ecosystems. 

Past Research
My research has informed managers and scientists about how natural and anthropogenic disturbances and restoration affect species populations and productivity and provide guidance for mitigating negative effects. My publications and consultations are used by managers to solve problems, recover threatened and endangered species, develop monitoring protocols, and manage biological diversity.
Research Interest
I am interested in how plants and animals respond to the effects of natural resource practices and natural phenomena. I work to determine the vulnerability of species to shifts in climate, fire, and invasive speciees and to develop support tools that managers can use to assist species to adapt to changing conditions. I have worked in urban and wildland-urban interface environments, gauging how federal agency decision-makers make management decisions on urban ecosystem services and respond to stressors associated with open space in and near city environments. Developing research and management partnerships to conserve native plant and animal species and their habitats and to reduce stress on ecosystems is of interest to me.
Why This Research Is Important
My research and program management aids land managers in evaluating ways to manage effects of stressors and disturbances, particularly in riparian and dryland ecosystems and to formulate approaches to restore damaged lands. Earlier in my career, I was recognized for my contributions to the field of landbird conservation by PIF in 2006. PIF is a cooperative effort dedicated to combining, coordinating, and increasing public and private resources for the purpose of conserving bird populations in North and South America. I have served as leader for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Recovery Team and have published conservation assessments on many other species. I was the program manager for the Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Program for 10 years and the project leader for a grasslands and riparian unit for 15 years. I also competed for and was awarded funds for the Middle Rio Grande Ecosystem Management Research Unit, a research effort that produced 272 publications since 1994.
  • Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, B.S., Wildlife Management, 1978
  • Arizona State University, Tempe, M.S., Zoology, 1981
  • University of Wyoming, Laramie, Ph.D., Zoology and Physiology, 1987
Awards & Recognition
  • Civil Rights and Cultural Transformation Award and Plaque, 2016
    Annual Awards. Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Elected Fellow, 2015
    American Ornithologists' Union
  • Wings Across the Americas Award, 2012
    Research and Partnership Award for Outstanding Achievement in Conservation. Bird responses to invasive species, fire and fuel removal in vulnerable southwestern ecosystems
  • National Grasslands Research and Technology Award, 2012
    For Group Leadership for Climate Change in the Great Plains workshop and managers meeting. National Grassland Council.
  • Partners in Conservation Award, 2011
    For Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. In recognition of outstanding conservation achievements attained through collaboration and partnerships with individuals, communities, agencies and organizations.
  • Rangeland Research and Development Award. Plaque, 2010
    "For lifetime achievement in rangeland research." Rangeland Research and Development and National Forest System. USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC.
  • Merit Award and Plaque, 2010
    "For your dedication and commitment to excellent work as the Acting Assistant Director for the Pacific Southwest Research Station."
  • Merit Award, 2009
    "For Outstanding Managerial and Technical Leadership as Acting Program Manager for the Forest and Woodland Ecosystems and the Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Programs". RMRS
  • Merit Award, 2009
    "For Outstanding Managerial and Technical Leadership as Acting Program Manager for the Forest and Woodland Ecosystems and the Grassland, Shrubland and Desert Ecosystems Science Programs". RMRS
  • Merit Award, 2009
    "For excellent long-term mentorship of postdocs, students, and employees and for oversight of the Santa Fe and Middle Rio Grande fuel projects. RMRS.
  • Merit Award and Plaque, 2008
    "For exemplary leadership as Acting Wildlife Program Leader". USDA Forest Service, Research and Development, Washington Office.
  • Letter of Commendation, 2008
    "For support for the Great Plains Riparian Forest Management Summit". National Agroforestry Center.
  • Public Awareness & Education Award - Group, 2008
    For: developing "The Rocky Mountain Riparian Digest," an online outreach tool to market research from RMRS and collaborators. From New Mexico Riparian Council.
  • Special Award, Etched Plate, 2007
    "For your Outstanding Leadership of RWU 4351". From Unit Employees of Rocky Mountain Research Station, Albuquerque Lab.
  • Merit Award, 2006
    “For your active role on the RMRS Invasives Meeting Team in planning and conducting the workshop...". USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
  • Cash Award and Plaque., 2006
    Best Technology Transfer Annual Award, "For RMRS-GTR-135, Assessment of Grassland Ecosystem Conditions in the American Southwest". USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • PIF Investigations Award, , 2006
    for "Outstanding Contributions to Bird Conservation". Partners in Flight.
  • Merit Award, 2006
    “For exemplary efforts in managing 2 research work units through a difficult transition period...” RMRS
  • Investigations Award and Plaque, 2005
    Partners in Flight award. For exceptional service to landbird conservation.
  • Merit Award, 2004
    For outstanding leadership of the R3/RMRS Grassland Assessment Team and in editing V.1.” From Employees of the Albuquerque Forestry Sciences Laboratory.
  • Merit Award, 2004
    “For timely completion of RWU-4351 research charter and excellent Ecosystem Management Unit presentation”. Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Award Plaque, 2004
    Civil Rights Award. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Other Publications
Research Highlights

The Effects of Climate Change in Grasslands, Shrublands, and Deserts

Year: 2012
Studies show that by the turn of the century, climate in the Western United States may be incompatible with current vegetation types, resulting in shifting patterns of terrestrial ecosystems

Forest Service Science Bolsters Sagebrush and Sage Grouse Conservation

Year: 2016
The Forest Service has been a leader for several decades in developing science and applications to support conservation and restoration of sagebrush ecosystems and sage-grouse populations. This research highlight describes an assessment that explains why Forest Service science on this topic is cruci...

Climate change and wildfire effects in aridland riparian ecosystems

Year: 2017
A frequently discussed function of aridland riparian ecosystems is the contribution of woody riparian plants to breeding bird habitat. The structurally diverse, species-rich vegetation along many southwestern streams supports high densities of territories and nest sites for a variety of birds includ...

Providing science-based information for future conservation and management efforts of sagebrush ecosystems

Year: 2017
Conservation and restoration of sagebrush ecosystems is the first step in reducing the threat to the greater sage-grouse. Holistic management of this ecosystem also will reduce fires that damage properties, mitigate the spread of undesirable invasive annual grasses, and improve ecosystem services.

How removal of invasive trees affects nesting birds in riparian areas

Year: 2010
Researchers studied nesting success in areas dominated by native tree species such as willows, areas dominated by invasive species such as tamarisk, sites that burned, those not burned and those where invasive species had been removed.