Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Robert E. Keane II

Robert E. Keane II
Supervisory Research Ecologist
Fire, Fuel and Smoke
5775 US West Highway 10
Missoula, MT 59808
United States
Current Research

My research includes 1) developing spatially explicit ecological computer simulation models for exploring landscape, fire, vegetation, and climate dynamics, 2) conducting wildland fuel science: the sampling, describing, modeling, and mapping of wildland fuel characteristics, and 3) exploring the ecology and restoration of whitebark pine.

Past Research

I have developed several computer models that operate at many scales including CRBSUM, LANDSUM, WXFIRE, FireBGC, and FireBGCv2 landscape simulation models. I also developed the originalversions of the FOFEM (First Order Fire Effects Model) and I have written several fire hazard and analysis programs (FLEAT, FIREHARM). I also assisted in the development of FIREMON (a FIRE MONitoring sampling and database management system)and ECODATA ( an ecological inventory system). I was also lead scientists on the LANDFIRE prototype project and wrote many computer programs for that project including LF-BGC, LANDSUMv4, and WXFIRE. I have written several articles about the restoration of whitebark pine ecosystems and have documented decomposition, deposition, and accumulation rates of wildland fuels in the northern US Rocky Mountains. I have also conducted landscape ecology experiments in wildland fuels to aid in sampling and mapping.

Research Interest

I am interested in the landscape ecology of ecosystem processes, especially disturbance, climate, and vegetation, and the scales at which these processes interact. I am also interested in the high elevation forests of the northern Rocky Mountains of the US, especially the whitebark pine ecosystem (its decline and potential restoration). Recently I've done work in understanding the dynamics of wildland fuels - how fuels accumulate, how their properties change over time, and how they are impacted by disturbance

Why This Research Is Important

Long-term, spatially explicit field sampling is costly and time consuming, especially at the time scales of fire regimes, vegetation succession, and climate, so ecosystem modeling provides a valuable tool to evaluate effects of changing climate and disturbance regimes on landscape ecology and condition. Fuels are the most important management factor in manipulating fire behavior because it is the only factor that managers can control, yet we know very little of the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of fuels over time and space. Last, whitebark pine forests are declining at alarming rates and new treatments are needed to restore these high elevation ecosystems.

  • University of Maine, Orono, B.S., Forest Engineering,
  • University of Montana, Missoula, M.S., Forest Ecology,
  • University of Idaho, Moscow, Ph.D., Forest Ecology,
Professional Experience
  • Research Ecologist,  US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory,  1992 - Current
  • Research Forester,  US Forest Service Intermountain Research Station Fire Sciences Laboratory,  1990 - 1992
  • Quantitative Ecologist,  Systems for Environmental Management,  1986 - 1992
  • Research Assistant,  University of Montana,  1982 - 1986
  • Research Technician,  US Forest Service Intermountain Research Station and Northern Region,  1979 - 1982
  • Research Forester,  Gradient Modeling Inc,  1978 - 1979
Professional Organizations
  • Advisory Board Member,  American Forests Association,  2012 - Current
  • Board Member,  Association of Fire Ecology,  2010 - Current
  • Board Member,  Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation,  2000 - Current
  • Member,  International Association of Wildland Fire,  1998 - Current
  • Member,  Montana Native Plant Society,  1990 - Current
  • Member,  Northwest Science,  1990 - 2014
  • Secretary,  International Association for Landscape Ecology,  2003 - 2008
Awards & Recognition
  • Biswell Award for Scientific Achievement in wildland fire science, 2019
    International award presented by the Association of Fire Ecology
  • Outstanding Associate Editor , 2010
    Given by the International Journal of Wildland Fire
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Research Highlights

Restoring whitebark pine ecosystems in the face of climate change

Year: 2017
Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) forests are declining across most of their range in North America because of the combined effects of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) outbreaks, fire exclusion policies, and the exotic pathogen Cronartium ribicola, which infects five-needle white pines...

How to measure, describe and map wildland fuels

Year: 2011
Results from a new study have profound implications for fire management and may render many conventional fuel products and analyses inappropriate for fire behavior simulations.

Mappint Project Delivers Fire Severity Maps for all Phases of Fire Management

Year: 2013
Forest Service scientists and their cooperators developed the Fire Severity (FIRESEV) Mapping Project, a comprehensive set of tools and precedures that create, evaluate, and deliver fire severity maps and tools for all phases of fire management.

To Masticate or Not to Masticate: Useful tips for Treating Vegetation

Year: 2019
Recently, several large fires have burned through masticated sites in Colorado, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere. Burning under extreme weather conditions with strong winds, these fires challenged the benefits of using mastication, even though mastication can provide many positive environmental ...