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Megan M. Friggens

Megan Friggens

Research Ecologist

333 Broadway SE, Suite 115
Albuquerque, NM 87102-3660
Contact Megan M. Friggens

Current Research

I use a variety of methods to assess future threats and impacts to wildlife species and habitats arising from climate change and related disturbances. I recently applied a coupled model approach to assess habitat and species vulnerability to climate and wildfire in the southwestern U.S. Ongoing and recently completed projects include:

  • As part of a JFSP funded project, I have created a vulnerability assessment tool that allows managers to assess ecosystem vulnerabilty to changes in climate and wildfire regimes at the landscape level;
  • In collaboration with Audubon Tucson, I am guiding the developement of habitat suitability models for the Western yellow-billed cuckoo in Arizona;
  • I have just completed work that uses machine learning to predict wildfire impacts on cultural resources within New Mexico;

I am also actively involved with a number of state and federally sponsored climate change vulnerability assessments for western and southwestern ecosystems.

Bagne, Karen E.; Friggens, Megan M.; Coe, Sharon J.; Finch, Deborah M. 2014. The importance of assessing climate change vulnerability to address species conservation. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management. 5(2): 450-462, e1944-687X. Friggens, Megan M.; Williams, Mary I.; Bagne, Karen E.; Wixom, Tosha T.; Cushman, Samuel A. 2018. Effects of climate change on terrestrial animals [Chapter 9]. In: Halofsky, Jessica E.; Peterson, David L.; Ho, Joanne J.; Little, Natalie, J.; Joyce, Linda A., eds. Climate change vulnerability and adaptation in the Intermountain Region [Part 2]. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-375. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 264-315.

Research Interests

My research interests include landscape scale analysis of disturbance processes (fire, drought, land conversion, pathogens and parasites); climate change impacts on wildlife species; habitat change due to changing climate; wildlife disease ecology; wildlife disease as an invasive species issue; and, conservation biology.

Past Research

My previous research projects include:

  • Modeling the relationship between landscape characteristics and wildfire impacts on prehistoric artifacts and features;
  • Co-developing spatially explicit vulnerabiltiy assessments for piñon-juniper and sagebrush habitats, aquatic ecoystems and fish, and mule deer and elk;
  • Integrating habitat suitability models generated for SW wildlife species under fusure climate scenarios with predicted fire impacts to better assess future habitat availability;
  • Developing a database of climate change vulnerability assessments for aquatic systems;
  • Federal land management decision making processes for open spaces in the Southwest;
  • Vulnerability assessments for riparian species along the Rio Grande, New Mexico, and in the Sky Islands of Arizona;
  • Climate change impacts within the Western U.S.;
  • Climate mediated mechanisms of plague introduction into prairie dogs;
  • Predicting the presence and spread of zoonotic disease;
  • Estimating the effect of anthropogenic disturbance on the risk of flea-borne disease transmission;
  • Identifying the effect of fire on wildlife disease.

Friggens, Megan; Raish, Carol; Finch, Deborah; McSweeney, Alice. 2015. The influence of personal belief, agency mission and city size on open space decision making processes in three southwestern cities. Urban Ecosystems. 18: 577-598. Friggens, Megan M.; Finch, Deborah M. 2015. Implications of climate change for bird conservation in the southwestern U.S. under three alternative futures. PLoS ONE. 10(12): e0144089. Friggens, Megan M.; Woodlief, Carly K. 2015. Final Report: Synthesis of aquatic climate change vulnerability assessments for the Interior West. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 67 p. Friggens, Megan M.; Loehman, Rachel; Holsinger, Lisa; Finch, Deborah. 2014. Vulnerability of riparian obligate species to the interactive effect of fire, climate and hydrological change. Final Report for Interagency Agreement #13-IA-11221632-006. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 213 p. Amelon, Sybill; Brooks, Robert T.; Glaeser, Jessie; Friggens, Megan; Lindner, Daniel; Loeb, Susan C.; Lynch, Ann; Minnis, Drew; Perry, Roger; Rowland, Mary M.; Tomosy, Monica; Weller, Ted. 2012. U.S. Forest Service Research and Development (USFS R/D) national science strategy on White Nose Syndrome (WNS). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Research and Development. 18 p.

Why This Research is Important

Much of my research aims to help managers and conservationists identify successful strategies for addressing issues relating to species conservation under global change. Climate change affects species' interactions in unpredictable ways and is likely to increase the negative impact of invasive species and disease. Synergistic climate-fire impacts are of particular importance within the western U.S. Managers are faced with the task of making decisions under a number of uncertainties relating to future conditions and species' responses to those conditions. I use syntheses, models, and actively engage managers to reduce this uncertainty and identify probable outcomes to help identify adaptive management strategies for conserving critical resources.


Bagne, Karen E.; Friggens, Megan M.; Coe, Sharon J.; Finch, Deborah M. 2014. The importance of assessing climate change vulnerability to address species conservation. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management. 5(2): 450-462, e1944-687X. Bagne, Karen E.; Friggens, Megan M.; Finch, Deborah M. 2011. A System for Assessing Vulnerability of Species (SAVS) to Climate Change. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-257. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 28 p.


  • Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, Ph.D., Forestry, 2010
  • University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM, M.S., Biology, 2002
  • University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM, B.S., Biology, 1999
  • Professional Organizations

    • The Wildlife Society, Member ( 2002 to present )
    • Ecological Society of America, Member ( 2000 to present )


    Department of Interior, Partners in Conservation Award, 2011
    Received for contributions to "Scanning the Conservation Horizon: A guide to climate change vulnerability assessment"

    Featured Publications


    Friggens, Megan M.; Loehman, R.; Thode, A.; Flatley, W.; Evans, A.; Bunn, W.; Wilcox, C.; Mueller, S.; Yocom, L.; Falk, D., 2019. User guide to the FireCLIME Vulnerability Assessment (VA) tool: A rapid and flexible system for assessing ecosystem vulnerability to climate-fire interactions
    Friggens, Megan M.; Williams, Mary I.; Bagne, Karen; Wixom, Tosha T.; Cushman, Samuel A., 2018. Effects of climate change on terrestrial animals [Chapter 9]
    Ojima, Dennis S.; Iverson, Louis R.; Sohngen, Brent L.; Vose, James M.; Woodall, Christopher W.; Domke, Grant M.; Peterson, David L.; Littell, Jeremy S.; Matthews, Stephen N.; Prasad, Anantha M.; Peters, Matthew P.; Yohe, Gary W.; Friggens, Megan M., 2014. Risk assessment [Chapter 9]
    Friggens, Megan M.; Loehman, Rachel A.; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Finch, Deborah M., 2014. Vulnerability of riparian obligate species to the interactive effect of fire, climate and hydrological change
    Friggens, Megan M.; Pinto, Jeremiah R.; Dumroese, Kasten; Shaw, Nancy L., 2012. Decision support: Vulnerability, conservation, and restoration (Chapter 8)
    Runyon, Justin B.; Butler, Jack L.; Friggens, Megan M.; Meyer, Susan E.; Sing, Sharlene E., 2012. Invasive species and climate change (Chapter 7)
    Friggens, Megan M.; Warwell, Marcus V.; Chambers, Jeanne C.; Kitchen, Stanley G., 2012. Modeling and predicting vegetation response of western USA grasslands, shrublands, and deserts to climate change (Chapter 1)
    Friggens, Megan M.; Matthews, Stephen N., 2012. Risk assessment for two bird species in northern Wisconsin
    Amelon, Sybill; Brooks, Robert T.; Glaeser, Jessie; Friggens, Megan M.; Lindner, Daniel; Loeb, Susan C.; Lynch, Ann M.; Minnis, Drew; Perry, Roger; Rowland, Mary M.; Tomosy, Monica; Weller, Ted, 2012. U.S. Forest Service Research and Development (USFS R/D) national science strategy on White Nose Syndrome (WNS)
    Finch, Deborah M.; Bagne, Karen; Friggens, Megan M.; Smith, D. M.; Brodhead, K. M., 2011. A review of climate change effects on terrestrial rangeland birds
    Friggens, Megan M.; Ford, Paulette L.; Parmenter, R. R.; Boyden, M.; Gage, K., 2011. Assessing plague risk and presence through surveys of small mammal flea communities
    Finch, Deborah M.; Friggens, Megan M.; Bagne, Karen, 2011. Case Study 3: Species vulnerability assessment for the Middle Rio Grande, New Mexico
    Bagne, Karen; Finch, Deborah M.; Friggens, Megan M., 2011. Vulnerability of amphibians to climate change: implications for rangeland management
    Friggens, Megan M.; Parmenter, Robert R.; Boyden, Michael; Ford, Paulette L.; Gage, Kenneth; Keim, Paul, 2010. Flea abundance, diversity, and plague in Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) and their burrows in montane grasslands in northern New Mexico
    The riparian vegetation along the upper Gila River in southwestern New Mexico has high richness of woody plants and extremely high densities of nesting birds including the Federally endangered and threatened species
    Rivers and streams of the American Southwest have been heavily altered by human activity, resulting in significant changes to disturbance regimes. Riparian vegetation in aridland floodplain systems is critically important as foraging, migrating, and breeding habitat to birds and other animal species. To conserve riparian ecosystems and organisms, understanding how plants and animals are affected by disturbance processes and multiple stressors is critical.
    Close-up of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo from the Grand Canyon. Picture courtesy of National Park Service
    The western distinct population segment of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo (wYBC), listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, has experienced severe population declines due to loss and fragmentation of riparian habitats. To assist ongoing conservation efforts by the Audubon Tucson Society, we are implementing MaxEnt to model suitable habitat for wYBC in Arizona under current and future conditions.
    Watershed following the Las Conchas Fire on the Santa Fe National Forest. Credit goes to: Anna Jaramillo-Scarborough
    Wildfires, an important natural disturbance in southwestern ecosystems, can present challenges to resource managers, communities, and private landowners when they burn areas subject to post-fire flooding and erosion. Many government agencies and research institutions have developed science and management tools for estimating post-fire effects and mitigating risks in burned landscapes. We assessed the utility of currently available tools and resources for application on non-federal lands and by non-federal user groups.
    A map of the three focal areas of th Southern Rockies LCC
    Successful management of natural and cultural resources needs to account for increasing stress due to climate change, wildfire, and anthropogenic disturbance and requires collaborative processes to identify effective strategies at landscape scales. Recognizing this need, the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (SRLCC) implemented a landscape conservation design framework to develop data and tools for use during land management planning, with relevance to multiple stakeholder groups. Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) scientists partnered with the SRLCC to provide expertise and analytical data products to use towards this effort.
    Riparian habitat along the Rio Grande, New Mexico
    Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists have developed a coupled approach that combines species distribution models, predictions for future fire regime, and climate change vulnerability assessments to estimate the interactive impacts of climate change and fire on species that reside within riparian habitats in the Southwest.
    Ecosystems are increasingly threatened by fire, insects, disease, invasive species, drought, and climate change. Shifting landscapes and interactive disturbances challenge land managers who must meet particular land management objectives. Three concurrent activities are helping managers access adaptation strategies and tactics that can address ongoing challenges to forest and grassland productivity, resilience and restoration.
    Using a newly developed decision support tool, RMRS scientist Megan Friggens and collaborators have conducted case study assessments in National Forests in the SW. Working closely with National Forest staff, they assessed the vulnerability of several landscapes to the interactive effect of changing fire and climate regimes. During interactive assessment sessions, they also quantified the potential effectiveness of management strategies for reducing landscape vulnerability.
    Researchers and collaborators at the Rocky Mountain Research Station Albuquerque Lab have pursued several lines of research to better manage prairie dog colonies in the Southwest. The research team developed a novel approach to estimate density of prairie dogs, assessed mechanisms of prairie dog expansion, and explored the role of fleas, an important element of the plague lifecycle, in initiating and perpetuating plague outbreaks.
    In 2012, the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) identified a need for synthesis products and tools to help managers identify vulnerability assessments and literature relevant to the Interior Western U.S. In response to this need, Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists compiled climate change vulnerability literature for the western U.S. with a focus on the states and regions within the Southern Rockies LCC boundary.
    The aquatics synthesis project aimed to improve access and application of relevant climate change data for aquatic resource managers and researchers. The Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative, recognizing the need for syntheses and tools for climate change adaptation, sponsored this effort.
    The ArcBurn project uses controlled laboratory experiments and instrumentation on prescribed burns and wildfires to determine critical damage thresholds for cultural resources including archaeological sites, artifacts, and heritage resources. Data and observations on fire effects and effectiveness of fuels treatments are then used to develop guidelines for best treatment practices and protection of archaeological resources.