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Joseph W.. Wagenbrenner

Research Hydrologist

1700 Bayview Drive
Arcata, CA 95521-6013
Contact Joseph W.. Wagenbrenner

Current Research

Measurement of the effects of fire and other forest disturbances on soil properties and hydrologic processesAssessments of post-fire hillslope, road, and channel treatments for mitigating runoff, erosion, and sediment transportDevelopment and improvement of modeling parameters used to predict erosionImproving erosion research methodology using photogrammetry and other techniques

Research Interests

I am interested in understanding the complexity of the hydrologic cycle at various spatial and temporal scales. More specific interests include determining the effects that humans have on different components of the hydrologic cycle, understanding the effects of fire and other forest disturbances on hydrologic processes, and identifying the impacts of practices used to mitigate these effects. I am also interested in developing and refining techniques used to quantify or describe hydrologic processes and properties. Combining the new methodology and increased understanding, we can improve our ability to predict the effects of disturbance (fire, timber harvest, roads, etc.) on runoff, erosion, and sediment transport from the hillslope to small catchment scale.

Past Research

My work will help improve our understanding of the natural and human-impacted environments. Among many other aspects, land managers and policy makers need to understand the effects of various management decisions on the hydrologic cycle to make the best management decisions. Fires and other disturbances can cause dramatic impacts to the hydrologic cycle, resulting in risks to safety, health, wildlife habitat, and other human values. Quantifying these impacts will improve our understanding of the risks of these disturbances and therefore improve our ability to predict the responses. Knowing the effectivness of various post-disturbance management techniques in the short and long term will allow land managers to select the most suitable techniques when mitigation is needed and improve those techniques that have less impact.The impacts of human activities, including climate change, on the environment are highly uncertain. One way to reduce this uncertainty is to use predictive models derived from field observations and hydrologic theory to develop likely outcomes. These possible scenarios can then be used to help guide management decisions.

Why This Research is Important

Measuring the effectiveness of post-fire response treatments at mitigating runoff and erosion in the western U.S. (4 peer-reviewed articles)Comparing the relative rill erosion rates of fire and logging skid trails to undisturbed forests (1 peer-reviewed article)Developing rill erosion modeling parameters for disturbed and undisturbed forests (1 peer-reviewed article)Quantifying the post-fire erosion rates in western Montana (1 Forest Service publication)


  • Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, B.M.E., Mechanical Engineering, 1993
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, M.S., Watershed Science, 2003
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Ph.D. Candidate, Biological Systems Engineering, 2012
  • Featured Publications


    Robichaud, Pete R.; Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.; Pierson, Fredrick B.; Spaeth, Kenneth E.; Ashmun, Louise E.; Moffet, Corey A., 2016. Infiltration and interrill erosion rates after a wildfire in western Montana, USA
    Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.; MacDonald, Lee H.; Coats, Robert N.; Robichaud, Pete R.; Brown, Robert E., 2015. Effects of post-fire salvage logging and a skid trail treatment on ground cover, soils, and sediment production in the interior western United States
    Robichaud, Pete R.; Lewis, Sarah A.; Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.; Ashmun, Louise E.; Brown, Robert E., 2013. Post-fire mulching for runoff and erosion mitigation; Part I: Effectiveness at reducing hillslope erosion rates
    Robichaud, Pete R.; Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.; Lewis, Sarah A.; Ashmun, Louise E.; Brown, Robert E.; Wohlgemuth, Peter M., 2013. Post-fire mulching for runoff and erosion mitigation; Part II: Effectiveness in reducing runoff and sediment yields from small catchments
    Robichaud, Pete R.; Elliot, William J.; Wagenbrenner, J. W., 2011. Probabilistic soil erosion modeling using the Erosion Risk Management Tool (ERMIT) after wildfires
    Wagenbrenner, Joseph W.; Robichaud, Pete R., 2011. Rill erosion rates in burned forests
    Robichaud, Pete R.; Wagenbrenner, J. W.; Brown, Robert E., 2010. Rill erosion in natural and disturbed forests: 1. Measurements
    Wagenbrenner, J. W.; Robichaud, Pete R.; Elliot, William J., 2010. Rill erosion in natural and disturbed forests: 2. Modeling approaches
    Robichaud, Pete R.; Wagenbrenner, J. W.; Brown, Robert E.; Wohlgemuth, P. M.; Beyers, J. L., 2008. Evaluating the effectiveness of contour-felled log erosion barriers as a post-fire runoff and erosion mitigation treatment in the western United States

    RMRS Science Program Areas: 
    Air, Water and Aquatic Environments