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Sharon M. Hood

Sharon Hood

Research Ecologist

5775 Highway 10 West
Missoula, MT 59808-9361
Contact Sharon M. Hood

Current Research

The primary focus of my research is on how fire affects trees and ultimately forest dynamics. My past and current research falls into three broad categories:

  1. What are the causes and mechanisms of postfire tree mortality? Surprisingly, tree death is still not well understood and therefore hampers efforts to accurately model and predict the impact of disturbance and climate change on tree mortality. My research seeks to understand fire-related factors leading to tree death and the causes of tree mortality. Currently, my research in this area focuses on the impacts of fire and climate on tree carbon allocation patterns to defense, storage, and growth to determine how allocation relates to tree mortality. 
  2. How do changes in fire regimes affect forest succession and forest resilience to climate change and future disturbance? Local fire regimes have been altered in many ecosystems due to direct and indirect anthropogenic activities. Changes in fire frequency and seasonality can cause shifts in species composition and fuel characteristics, which can then impact fire effects through associated changes in fire intensity. Most of my research in this area has focused on the impact of reducing fire frequency in fire-dependent ecosystems. This area of research also examines the effects of silvicultural and fuel treatments to increase understanding of treatment options that foster resilient forests. 
  3. What are the effects of fire on host tree susceptibility to bark beetle attack?  Fire can directly impact tree defense and carbon acquisition, which in turn, affects susceptibility to bark beetle attack. Yet fire also can affect stand-level and landscape-level processes such as nutrient and water availability and host tree location. My research examines how fire affects tree defense and ultimately influences the susceptibility of trees to bark beetle attack. Teasing apart the contribution of host tree defenses, stand-level processes, and regional-scale synchrony due to climate on bark beetle population regulation is critical to improve our understanding of outbreaks and how both climate change and management will affect forest susceptibility to bark beetles. 

Research Interests

My research interests are: fire-induced tree mortality, fire and insect interactions, and silvicultural and fuel treatment effects.


  • University of Montana, Ph.D., Organismal Biology and Ecology, 2015
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, M.S., Forestry, 2001
  • Mississippi State University, B.S., Forestry, 1997
  • Professional Experience

    Research Ecologist, Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program, Rocky Mountain Research Station, US Forest Service
    2015 to present

    Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Montana, College of Forestry and Conservation, Department of Forest Management

    Ecologist, Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Program, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service
    2009 to 2014

    Forester, Fire Ecology and Fuel Unit, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service
    2001 to 2009

    Professional Organizations

    • Association for Fire Ecology, Board Member ( 2016 to present )
      Fire Ecology Journal Committee
    • Ecological Society of America, Member ( 2013 to present )
    • Association for Fire Ecology, Member ( 2007 to present )

    Featured Publications


    Roskilly, Beth; Keeling, Eric; Hood, Sharon M.; Giuggiola, Arnaud; Sala, Anna, 2019. Conflicting functional effects of xylem pit structure relate to the growth-longevity trade-off in a conifer species
    Higuera, Philip E.; Metcalf, Alexander L.; Miller, Carol L.; Buma, Brian; McWethy, David B.; Metcalf, Elizabeth C.; Ratajczak, Zak; Nelson, Cara R.; Chaffin, Brian C.; Stedman, Richard C.; McCaffrey, Sarah; Schoennagel, Tania; Harvey, Brian J.; Hood, Sharon M.; Schultz, Courtney A.; Black, Anne E.; Campbell, David; Haggerty, Julia H.; Keane II, Robert E.; Krawchuk, Meg A.; Kulig, Judith C.; Rafferty, Rebekah; Virapongse, Arika, 2019. Integrating subjective and objective dimensions of resilience in fire-prone landscapes
    Grayson, Lindsay M.; Cluck, Daniel R.; Hood, Sharon M., 2019. Persistence of fire-killed conifer snags in California, USA
    Axelson, Jodi; Battles, John; Bulaon, Beverly; Cluck, Danny; Cousins, Stella; Cox, Lauren; Estes, Becky; Fettig, Chris; Hefty, Andrea; Hishinuma, Stacy; Hood, Sharon M.; Kocher, Susie; Mortenson, Leif; Koltunov, Alexander; Kuskulis, Elliot; Poloni, Adrian; Ramirez, Carlos; Restaino, Christina; Slaton, Michele; Smith, Sheri; Tubbesing, Carmen, 2019. The California Tree Mortality Data Collection Network - Enhanced communication and collaboration among scientists and stakeholders
    Progar, Robert A.; Ganio, Lisa; Grayson, Lindsay; Hood, Sharon M., 2018. Chapter 9 - Monitoring survival of fire-injured trees in Oregon and Washington (Project WC-F-08-03)
    Hood, Sharon M.; Varner, J. Morgan; van Mantgem, Phillip; Cansler, C. Alina., 2018. Fire and tree death: Understanding and improving modeling of fire-induced tree mortality
    Crotteau, Justin S.; Keyes, Christopher R.; Hood, Sharon M.; Affleck, David L. R.; Sala, Anna, 2018. Fuel dynamics after a bark beetle outbreak impacts experimental fuel treatments
    Retzlaff, Molly L.; Keane II, Robert E.; Affleck, David L.; Hood, Sharon M., 2018. Growth response of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm) regeneration to thinning and prescribed burn treatments
    Crotteau, Justin S.; Hood, Sharon M.; Lutes, Duncan C.; Keyes, Christopher R.; Sala, Anna; Harrington, Michael G., 2018. Management and succession at the Lick Creek Demonstration/Research Forest, Montana
    Crotteau, Justin S.; Keyes, Christopher R.; Hood, Sharon M.; Larson, Andrew J.; Sutherland, Elaine K.; Wright, David K.; Egan, Joel M., 2018. Stand dynamics 11 years after retention harvest in a lodgepole pine forest
    Williams, Howard; Hood, Sharon M.; Keyes, Christopher R.; Egan, Joel M.; Negron, Jose, 2018. Subwatershed-level lodgepole pine attributes associated with a mountain pine beetle outbreak
    Hudak, Andrew T.; Freeborn, Patrick; Lewis, Sarah A.; Hood, Sharon M.; Smith, Helen Y.; Hardy, Colin C.; Kremens, Robert J.; Butler, Bret W.; Teske, Casey; Tissell, Robert G.; Queen, Lloyd P.; Nordgren, Bryce L.; Bright, Benjamin C.; Morgan, Penelope; Riggan, Philip J.; Macholz, Lee; Lentile, Leigh B.; Riddering, James P.; Mathews, Edward E., 2018. The Cooney Ridge Fire Experiment: An early operation to relate pre-, active, and post-fire field and remotely sensed measurements
    Keane II, Robert E.; Loehman, Rachel A.; Holsinger, Lisa M.; Falk, Donald A.; Higuera, Philip; Hood, Sharon M.; Hessburg, Paul F., 2018. Use of landscape simulation modeling to quantify resilience for ecological applications
    Hood, Sharon M.; Cluck, Daniel R.; Jones, Bobette E.; Pinnell, Sean, 2017. Radial and stand-level thinning treatments: 15-year growth response of legacy ponderosa and Jeffrey pine trees
    Ryan, Michael G.; Sapes, Gerard; Sala, Anna; Hood, Sharon M., 2015. Tree physiology and bark beetles
    Lewis, Sarah A.; Hudak, Andrew T.; Ottmar, Roger D.; Robichaud, Pete R.; Lentile, Leigh B.; Hood, Sharon M.; Cronan, James B.; Morgan, Penny, 2011. Using hyperspectral imagery to estimate forest floor consumption from wildfire in boreal forests of Alaska, USA
    Belote, R. Travis; Jones, Robert H.; Hood, Sharon M.; Wender, Bryan W., 2008. Diversity-invasibility across an experimental disturbance gradient in Appalachian forests
    Hood, Sharon M.; Cluck, Danny R.; Smith, Sheri L.; Ryan, Kevin C., 2008. Using bark char codes to predict post-fire cambium mortality
    Hood, Sharon M.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Gibson, Ken; Ryan, Kevin; DeNitto, Gregg, 2007. Assessing post-fire Douglas-fir mortality and Douglas-fir beetle attacks in the northern Rocky Mountains
    Hood, Sharon M.; Smith, Sheri L.; Cluck, Daniel R., 2007. Delayed conifer tree mortality following fire in California
    Hood, Sharon M.; McHugh, Charles W.; Ryan, Kevin C.; Reinhardt, Elizabeth; Smith, Sheri L., 2007. Evaluation of a post-fire tree mortality model for western US conifers
    Hood, Sharon M.; Long, Donald; Miller, Melanie; Ryan, Kevin C., 2007. Introduction [Chapter 1]
    Tausch, Robin J.; Hood, Sharon M., 2007. Pinyon/juniper woodlands [Chapter 4]
    Hood, Sharon M.; Wu, Ros, 2006. Estimating Fuel Bed Loadings in Masticated Areas
    Hood, Sharon M.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Ryan, Kevin C., 2003. Douglas-fir beetle attack and tree mortality following wildfire
    Wender, Bryan W.; Hood, Sharon M.; Smith, David W.; Zedaker, Shepard M.; Loftis, David L., 1999. Response of Vascular Plant Communities to Harvest in Southern Appalachian Mixed-Oak Forests: Two-Year Results
    Prescribed crown fire at Manning Creek, Fishlake National Forest. Photo credit: Roger Ottmar. Photo taken: June 2019
    The broad consensus among fire and fuel scientists and managers is that we need to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations on many more acres to mitigate the risk and severity of wildfires. But mechanical fuel treatments are expensive! Prescribed fire is a more cost effective tool to reduce fuel loads and to restore and maintain fuel conditions to something closer to the historical norm.
    During and after fire
    Each year wildland fires kill and injure trees on millions of forested hectares globally, causing both positive and negative impacts to plant and animal biodiversity, carbon storage, hydrologic processes, and ecosystem services. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of fire-caused tree mortality is important to accurately predict mortality, estimate fire-driven feedbacks to the global carbon cycle, extrapolate to novel future conditions, and implement appropriate management actions to increase forest resilience to wildfire.
    stand-level thinning
    Large, old trees, often called legacy trees, serve a foundational role in old-growth forests. Restoration efforts to improve vigor of legacy trees and decrease risk to high-intensity wildland fire and drought-mediated insect mortality often include reductions in stand density. However, sometimes regulatory and social constraints limit stand-level thinning options by requiring maintenance of closed canopies.
    The frequency of fire in low-elevation coniferous forests in western North America has greatly declined since the late 1800s. In many areas, this has increased tree density, increased the proportion of shade-tolerant species, reduced resource availability, and increased forest susceptibility to forest insect pests and high-severity wildfire. This study investigated how low-intensity fire affects tree defenses and whether fuel treatments impact resistance to a mountain pine beetle outbreak.
    There is widespread interest in understanding the effectiveness of fuel treatments in mitigating the trajectory of wildfire suppression costs and how their effectiveness and longevity can be extended over large areas and landscapes. To date, there have been several studies that used a modeling approach to evaluate fuel treatment effectiveness at the landscape scale. However, empirical studies at this scale are rare because landscape-scale fuel treatment strategies have not been fully implemented or wildfires have not burned through implemented landscape fuel treatments. A thorough evaluation of what is currently available in the literature and lessons learned from forest and rangeland managers has not yet been conducted.
    The Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE) is a large-scale interagency effort to identify how fuels, fire behavior, fire energy and meteorology interact to determine the dynamics of smoke plumes, the long-range transport of smoke and local fire effects such as soil heating and vegetative response. FASMEE is designed to collect observations from large prescribed fires by combining Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), radar, ground monitoring, aircraft and satellite imagery, and weather and atmospheric measurements. Knowing more about how wildland fire operates helps land managers better predict fire behavior, smoke impacts, and the short- to long-term effects of fire. It also promotes increased public and firefighter safety and aids in the allocation of firefighting resources.
    Grand fir and western hemlock mortality and regeneration dynamics after wildfire and salvage.
    Lick Creek Demonstration-Research Forest: 25-year fire and cutting effects on vegetation and fuels.
    Long-term growth responses to stand density reduction treatments in mature pine forests of California
    Fuel treatment impacts in ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir forests in the Northern Rockies.
    The impact of fire on conifer defenses.
    Mortality reconsidered: Testing and extending models of fire–induced tree mortality across the United States.
    Changes in fuel loading and conifer mortality risk factors due to bark beetles and drought in California.
    Lodgepole pine forest host characteristics influence mountain pine beetle outbreak severity in the Northern Rocky Mountains.