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Jackson M. Leonard

Jackson M. Leonard

Research Ecologist

2500 South Pine Knoll Dr.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001-6381
Contact Jackson M. Leonard

Current Research

Currently I am the Scientist In-Charge at the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest where I help carry on the legacy of long-term vegetation, hydrology and climatology research.  I am also involved in the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund Project focusing on the impacts of legacy mining activities on stream function.

Research Interests

Stream Ecology, Fire Ecology, Ecosystem response to disturbance, Abondoned mine land remediation, Rangeland Ecology

Past Research

Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest, Atmospheric Monitoring Network, 2007-present; Dude Fire Recovery Project 2001-Present; Verde River T&E Fish Survey and Habitat Classification Project 2006-present; Southwestern Borderlands Project, Prescribed Fire Study, 2006-present; Verde River Research Project 2000-present


  • Northern Arizona University, Ph.D., Biology, 2015
  • NREMT, Emt-B And Wilderness First Responder, Certified as an Emergency Medical Technician Basic and Wilderness First Responder, 2009
  • Northern Arizona University, M.S., Forest Science, 2007
  • Northern Arizona University, B.S., Biology, 2002
  • Professional Experience

    Ecologist, Rocky Mountan Research Station, Flagstaff
    2007 to present

    I serve as the Scientist-in-Charge at the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest. I am responsible for implementing and managing research at all levels including field work, equipment installation, and data management/analysis. As a collaborator in the Bonita Peak Mining District Remediation Project I conduct aquatic habitat inventories and fish surveys to determine the potential for abandoned mine land remediation in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado. Cooperating agencies include San Juan National Forest, U.S. Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management. As part of my graduate program I conducted research on the long-term recovery of vegetation and aquatic habitat after the Dude Fire which burned in 1990. I have acted as field manager for Verde River Project, conducting threatened and endangered fish surveys and habitat classification along the upper reaches of the river. I also served as project manager for the Southwest Borderlands Project which looked at the role of prescribed fire in the oak/grassland savannahs of southern Arizona.
    Bological Science Technician, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Flagstaff
    2004 to 2007

    During this period I served as a research support technician for the Southwest Watershed Project and completed my graduate work on the long-term recovery of upland vegetation after high-severity wildfire.
    Wildland Firefighter, Type 1 Hotshot Crew, U.S. Forest Service, Prescott National Forest

    Member of the Prescott Hotshot Crew
    Biological Science Technician, Rocky Mountatin Research Station, Flagstaff
    1999 to 2002

    During this period I worked part-time as a research support technician while I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology.

    Professional Organizations

    • U.S. Forest Service, Resource Unit Leader ( 2009 to present )
      Member of the Central West Zone, Incident Management Team
    • Society for Range Management ( 2005 to 2008 )
    • Association of Fire Ecology ( 2005 to present )


    Early Career Scientist Publication Award, 2018
    Annual award given by the Rocky Mountain Research Station in recognition of the best publication by a new scientist.
    Certificate of Merit, 2016
    For efforts to improve science, safety and infrastructure at Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest
    Certificate of Appreciation, 2010
    Bestowed by the Pueblo of Santa Clara for work done supporting firefighting efforts during the South Fork Fire
    Certificate of Merit, 2006
    Outstanding work on the Verde River Project


    McNulty, Steve; Steel, Ashley; Springgay, Elaine; Caldwell, Ben; Shono, Kenichi; Pess, George; Funge-Smith, Simon; Richards, William; Ferraz, Silvio; Neary, Daniel G.; Long, Jonathan; Verbist, Bruno; Leonard, Jackson M.; Sun, Ge; Beechie, Timothy; Lo, Michaela; McGill, Lillian; Fullerton, Aimee; Borelli, Simone, 2021. Managing forests for water [Chapter 3]
    Neary, Daniel G.; Leonard, Jackson M., 2020. Effects of fire on grassland soils and water: A review
    Sankey, Temuulen Ts.; Leonard, Jackson M.; Moore, Margaret M., 2019. Unmanned aerial vehicle-based rangeland monitoring: Examining a century of vegetation changes
    Leonard, Jackson M.; Magana, Hugo A.; Bangert, Randy K.; Neary, Daniel G.; Montgomery, Wilson L., 2017. Fire and floods: The recovery of headwater stream systems following high-severity wildfire
    Leonard, Jackson M.; Medina, Alvin L.; Neary, Daniel G.; Tecle, Aregai, 2015. The influence of parent material on vegetation response 15 years after the Dude Fire, Arizona
    A fire burning on grassland.
    Natural wildfires have been important in creating and maintaining grassland ecosystems for millions of years, and prescribed fire is an important component of modern grassland management. Land managers want to understand the effects of fire on grasslands and the ecosystem services they provide, particularly as wildfires become more frequent due to drought.
    Snowtography technology will be used in conjunction with soil moisture sensors to measure and correlate snow accumulation, ablation and soil water content with vegetation in a wildfire affected area of the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest.
    Located on the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest, this project uses a common garden approach to determine which plant species are best suited for supporting pollinator communities and are most appropriate for restoration activities. Findings from the study will be used to 1) improve pollinator habitat, 2) increase seed stocks of native flowering species for use in restoration, 3) inform U.S. seed zone guidelines and 4) help predict plant-pollinator response to climate change. This carries on a long tradition at the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest of using common gardens in botanical research. As far back as the 1920s and 30s common gardens were used to study evapotranspiration rates of native herbaceous and shrub species as well as evaluate the potential use of certain species for erosion control. Some of these the same gardens are now being restored nearly a century later for use in this study.
    This project incorporates historical data collected at the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest nearly 100 years ago to determine how plant communities have changed over that period of time.
    The Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest (SAEF) Vegetation Mapping Project uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to create highly detailed vegetation maps using Structure From Motion technology.  These maps are then used to overlay historical vegetation maps made nearly 100 years ago to determine how vegetation has changed over the last century.

    National Strategic Program Areas: 
    Water, Air, and Soil; Wildland Fire and Fuels
    National Priority Research Areas: 
    Watershed Management and Restoration
    RMRS Science Program Areas: 
    Air, Water and Aquatic Environments