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Matthew P. Thompson

Matthew P. Thompson
Research Forester
Human Dimensions
240 W Prospect Rd
Fort Collins, CO 80526
United States
Current Research

risk, decision, and systems analysis; wildland fire management; forest management.

Past Research

My past research has focused on the integration of systems and industrial engineering with economics and other disciplines to support natural resource management and decision making.

Research Interest
Application of principles from systems engineering, industrial engineering, risk analysis, operations research, economics, and decision-making under uncertainty to complex resource management with economic and environmental objectives. With future work I hope to better incorporate spatiotemporal dynamics into integrated risk assessment, facilitate the application of comparative risk assessment frameworks to inform strategic planning efforts, better understand the role of human factors and incentives in decision-making, improve our ability to model the effectiveness of suppression resources, and continue to systematically explore methods for addressing uncertainty.
Why This Research Is Important

The spatial, temporal, and social dimensions of wildfire risk are challenging the Forest Service to meet societal needs while maintaining the health of its land base. The confluence of past management practices and philosophies, a changing climate, and increased human development into fire-prone areas result in magnified threat to human and ecological values. There is a continued need for increased analytical rigor, systems thinking, and alignment with risk management principles within the wildland fire management community. Collectively my research seeks to promote enhanced pre-fire planning, development of safer and more effective response strategies, landscape restoration and resource protection, and ultimately to inform and improve decision-making processes, be it related to wildfire management or more broadly to natural resources management with multiple objectives.

  • Stanford University, Certificate, Strategic Risk and Decision Making, 2017
  • Oregon State University, Ph.D., Forest Engineering, 2009
  • Oregon State University, M.S., Forest Management, 2008
  • University of California, Berkeley, M.S., Industrial Engineering & Operations Research, 2002
  • University of Virginia, B.S., Systems Engineering, 2001
Professional Experience
  • Research Forester,  Rocky Mountain Research Station, Human Dimensions Program,  2009 - Current
Awards & Recognition
  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, 2016
    The highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers
  • Research & Development Deputy Chief's Early Career Scientist Award, 2013
    Award recognizes scientists at the beginning of their research careers who have demonstrated outstanding capability and exceptional promise for significant future achievement.
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Research Highlights

Assessing Wildfire Risk to Communities and to Natural and Cultural Resources

Year: 2016
New wildfire risk assessment methods form the scientific basis for the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, an effort of federal, tribal, state, and local governments and non-governmental organizations to collaboratively address the growing wildfire challenges. Forest Service researc...

Risk Analysis Prioritizes Investments in Hazardous Fuels Reduction

Year: 2012
Scientists mitigate the adverse impacts of wildland fires

Modeling COVID-19 Potential in Fire Camps

Year: 2020
As a science-based, data-driven agency, the USDA Forest Service regularly conducts risk-based analysis to inform leadership and improve the overall health and safety of our firefighting community. in 2020 these types of assessments are complicated by additional risks to firefighter health and workfo...

Report Offers Framework for Wildfire Risk Assessment and Decision Support

Year: 2013
Scientists crafted a framework for wildfire risk assessment and applied the framework to support fire-management decision making processes on multiple national forests. Two key strengths of the framework are its flexibility - allowing for a multitude of data sources, modeling techniques, and approac...

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...