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Pamela G. Sikkink

Technical Information Specialist USDA Forest Service

5775 Highway 10 West
Missoula, MT 59808-9361
Contact Pamela G. Sikkink

Current Research

  • My current work focuses on maintaining publications and library at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory.
  • I also contribute as a data information specialist for the Northern Rockies Fire Sciences Network
  • I work in tech transfer for both organizations
  • Research Interests

    My research interests include classifying fire effects in live and dead fuel; determining how combustion affects productivity and physiological characteristics of grasses, forbs, and shrubs; determining limits of heat tolerance in vegetative parts of understory fuels; and developing ways to bridge modern and historic field sampling methods in vegetation communities.

    Past Research

    Objectively classifying fire effects provides for consistent collection of data in fuels studies and standardized communication between researchers and managers. Research on grass curing and live fuel moistures of all understory vegetation is needed to improve the prediction of fire effects when modeling wildfire and prescription burns. Research on the heat tolerance of vegetative parts of plants is important to judging severity of burns and assessing restoration needs. Finding ways to bridge the sampling methods of past and present is important to assessments of the effects of climate change in Yellowstone National Park.

    Why This Research is Important

    • I have studied multi-decadal vegetation change in grassland communities of Montana.
    • I have studied mastication fuel treatments and lead a 4-yr study on how aging of masticated fuels affects burning.
    • I have published works on fire severity and its causes.
    • I have published a paper comparing how several surface fuel sampling methods differed in output and usefulness.
    • I have created a field guide for sampling downed woody debris surface fuels.
    • I have published on the Artemisia tridentata community in Yellowstone Nat. Park.
    • I have worked on the development team to create software that integrated FEAT and FIREMON (databases for field data).


  • Bemidji State University, Bemidji, MN, B.S., Biology and Geology
  • University of Montana, Missoula, M.S., Forestry and Geology
  • University of Montana, Missoula, Ph.D., Forestry
  • Publications

    Keane II, Robert E.; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Smith, Helen Y.; Sikkink, Pamela G. , 2020. Drying rates of saturated masticated fuelbeds from Rocky Mountain mixed-conifer stands
    Heinsch, Faith Ann; Sikkink, Pamela G.; Smith, Helen Y.; Retzlaff, Molly L. , 2018. Characterizing fire behavior from laboratory burns of multi-aged, mixed-conifer masticated fuels in the western United States
    Jain, Terrie B.; Sikkink, Pamela G.; Keefe, Robert; Byrne, John C. , 2018. To masticate or not: Useful tips for treating forest, woodland, and shrubland vegetation
    Sikkink, Pamela G.; Jain, Terrie B.; Reardon, James; Heinsch, Faith Ann; Keane II, Robert E.; Butler, Bret W.; Baggett, L. Scott. , 2017. Effect of particle aging on chemical characteristics, smoldering, and fire behavior in mixed-conifer masticated fuel
    Morgan, Penelope; Keane II, Robert E.; Dillon, Gregory K.; Jain, Terrie B.; Hudak, Andrew T.; Karau, Eva C.; Sikkink, Pamela G.; Holden, Zachery A.; Strand, Eva K. , 2014. Challenges of assessing fire and burn severity using field measures, remote sensing and modelling
    Karau, Eva C.; Sikkink, Pamela G.; Keane II, Robert E.; Dillon, Gregory K. , 2014. Integrating satellite imagery with simulation modeling to improve burn severity mapping
    Miller, Sue; Keane II, Robert E.; Morgan, Penny; Sikkink, Pamela G.; Karau, Eva C.; Dillon, Gregory K. , 2013. Seeing red: New tools for mapping and understanding fire severity
    Sikkink, Pamela G.; Keane II, Robert E. , 2012. Predicting fire severity using surface fuels and moisture
    A wire cage full of wood chips, pine needles, and other woody material.
    Wildfires that burn masticated fuels often cause severe ecological damage. Managers need to know how fast the fuelbeds dry so they can implement actions to mitigate potential adverse effects. 
    Figure 1 urban_interface_mulching
    Recently, several large fires have burned through masticated sites – including in Colorado (Brewer et al. 2013), Washington, and New Mexico. Burning under extreme weather conditions with strong winds, these fires have challenged the benefits of using mastication, even though mastication can provide many positive environmental effects, such as soil moisture retention and cool, moist environments for soil microbes. However, informing managers when, where, and how mastication is applied is based on antidotal evidence. To address, this issue we synthesized information to provide managers with a current state of knowledge on mastication.
    High-severity wildfire.
    Land managers often need the total number of acres burned broken down by these severity classes for planning after wildfire. To meet this need, Forest Service scientists and their cooperators developed the Fire Severity (FIRESEV) Mapping project, a comprehensive set of tools and procedures that create, evaluate, and deliver fire severity maps for all phases of fire management.
    For the past three years, scientists from the RMRS Fire Sciences Lab in Missoula and the Forestry Sciences Lab in Moscow have been researching mastication as a fuel treatment in the Rocky Mountains. Specifically, they have been interested in how the materials age when they are left on the ground to decompose and how that aging affects their flammability.
    Fuel mastication is becoming the preferred method of fuel treatment in areas where using prescribed fire is an issue. While much is known about mastication effects soils, fire behavior and vegetative response, little is known about how fuel particle and fuel bed characteristics and properties change over time.

    National Strategic Program Areas: 
    Wildland Fire and Fuels
    National Priority Research Areas: 
    Forest Disturbances
    RMRS Science Program Areas: 
    Fire, Fuel and Smoke