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Pamela G. Sikkink

Biological Scientist

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

Current Research

  1. My current work focuses on developing an objective classification method for predicting burn severity from surface fuels.
  2. I am exploring ways to integrate fire severity designations from remote sensing with ecological modeling to create better burn severity maps
  3. I am exploring seasonal changes in biomass production and live fuel moistures in several species of grasses to determine curing and fuel characteristics.
  4. I am also exploring ways to improve vegetation sampling in Yellowstone National Park to create a bridge between data collected historically and data collected by more modern techniques.

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

  1. I have studied multi-decadal vegetation change in grassland communities of Montana.
  2. I have published a paper comparing how several surface fuel sampling methods differed in output and usefulness.
  3. I have created a field guide for sampling downed woody debris surface fuels.
  4. I have published on the Artemisia tridentata community in Yellowstone Nat. Park.
  5. 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

    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. Science You Can Use Bulletin: 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
    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.

    RMRS Science Program Areas: 
    Forest and Woodland Ecosystems