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Miranda H. Mockrin

Miranda H. Mockrin
Research Scientist
Urban Forests, Human Health, and Environmental Quality
5523 Research Park Drive Suite 350
Baltimore, MD 21228-4783
United States
Current Research
Wildland-urban interface (WUI) growth and mapping
Across the United States, the wildland-urban interface (WUI) is expanding, causing widespread environmental impacts, including more costly and complex wildfire management. I lead the production of a national WUI map (1990-2020). Based on Federal Register definitions, our WUI map been recognized as a national standard in a White House executive order (2016) and used for research and policy applications across the US. We find the WUI has grown rapidly over the past two decades, with 44% growth in WUI houses from 1990-2010. WUI growth has been particularly high within National Forests (47% increase in WUI houses). The WUI makes up a small portion of fire footprints, but contains the majority of buildings lost (69%).
Fire-adapted communities: rebuilding and policy change after wildfire
National fire policy now calls for WUI communities to become “fire-adapted” so they coexist with wildfire, but does destructive wildfire lead to adaptation? Thus far, we find little change in building practice: rebuilding and new development are robust over time, and communities typically make limited changes in local regulations and land-use planning.
Social vulnerability, demographics, and natural resources
Growth of the U.S. population has slowed dramatically in recent decades but composition (race, ethnicity, age) and distribution (across regions, across urban to rural areas) continues to change. I work with demographers and Forest Service scientists to summarize changes in population composition and distribution, and explore their implications for natural resource management, with an emphasis on understanding social vulnerability.
Characterizing forests in residential settings
Given the prevalence of the WUI and preferences many Americans have for living in forested settings, understanding the extent, character, and function of forests within developed areas is critical, as is designing housing to retain forests. I am working with ecologists, managers, and wildfire professionals to investigate forest policy and forest conditions, across a range of residential settings.
Past Research

1. Changes in wildlife-associated recreation participation (hunting and viewing) over time.
2. Analysis of housing growth in New England using census data to elucidate trends in the spatial and temporal development of residential housing, in and around the Northern Forest, from 1940-2000.
3. Doctoral research examined the spatial distribution and sustainability of hunting outside a protected area in Congo-Brazzaville

Research Interest

I am a research scientist who studies conservation and land use, combining ecological and social science. Current research at the Northern Research Station focuses on understanding changing natural resource use and management with shifting human demographics, including examining mapping the growth of the wildland-urban interface (WUI) over time, examining rebuilding in the WUI after wildfire, studying housing development and its ecological and social effects, exploring alternative forms of development such as conservation development, and studying changing patterns of wildlife-based recreation (hunting and viewing). Research during my graduate career examined the linked ecological and social dynamics of subsistence wildlife harvesting in a Central African logging concession.

Why This Research Is Important

Our communities have experienced substantial demographic, social, and economic transformations over the past 30 years. Suburban and exurban areas are become larger and more diverse, as residential development continues and population deconcentrates. Documenting these trends and understanding the factors that underlie them is essential to finding new ways of mitigating the impacts on natural resources. These changes will only intensify in the 21st Century: Americans are rapidly diversifying, sprawl is increasing, and climate change will increase disturbance from natural hazards (hurricanes, flooding, wildfire). 

  • Tufts University, B.S., Biopsychology, 1999
  • Columbia University, M.A., Ecology,
  • Columbia University, Ph.D., Ecology, 2008
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Research Highlights

Leading by example: Federal agencies use Forest Service Data on Wildland-Urban Interface to reduce fire risk

Year: 2016
The U.S. Forest Service’s high-resolution mapping of wildland-urban interface (WUI) areas across the United States is being widely used through a Presidential Executive Order issued to reduce the risk of wildfire to Federal buildings. These data are available online for all users who want to do fine...

Rapid Wildland-Urban Interface Growth Increases Wildfire Challenges

Year: 2018
The wildland-urban interface (WUI), where homes meet or intermingle with undeveloped forests and grasslands, is a critical area for wildfire and natural resource management. Both the number of homes in the WUI and total footprint of the WUI grew rapidly from 1990 to 2010, with broad implications for...

Interface Areas Are Critical to Wildfire Losses

Year: 2019
In California, wildfire management has become more complex, costly, and dangerous. Research by a USDA Forest Service scientist and her partners found that wildfire losses in California are most common in settled areas with little wildland vegetation that are near large blocks of wildland vegetation...

Changing Patterns of Wildlife Hunting and Viewing

Year: 2013
These findings help resource specialists explore the potential impacts of declining hunting participation, identify regions and activities that experience the greatest decline, anticipate changes to communities dependent on wildlife-associated recreation, and consider new mechanisms to fund wildlife...

Adapting to Wildfire: Rebuilding After Home Loss

Year: 2015
Wildfire management now emphasizes fire-adapted communities that coexist with wildfires, although it is unclear how communities will progress to this goal. Hazards research suggests that rebuilding after wildfire may be a crucial opportunity for homeowner and community adaptation. This study explor...

Rebuilding After Wildfire: New Development Outpaces Rebuilds

Year: 2016
When wildland fires destroy buildings, do people rebuild? This study shows that the number of buildings inside the perimeter five years after the wildfires was greater than the number of buildings before the fires. Most of these buildings were from new construction.