College Hires Nation’s First Wildland Fire Specialist

December 15, 2003

by Kathryn Stelljes

BERKELEY – As part of UC Berkeley’s recently expanded research and outreach program on wildland fires, Max Moritz will join the College of Natural Resources on Jan. 1 as the nation’s first Cooperative Extension specialist devoted to wildland fire.

Moritz will join the faculty of the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, and will work closely with the college’s Center for Forestry.

Moritz, who earned his Ph.D. in spatial ecology from UC Santa Barbara, wrote his doctoral thesis on the relationships between fire, land management techniques and chaparral vegetation in Los Padres National Forest. He holds a bachelor's degree in management science from UC San Diego and a master's degree in energy & environmental studies from Boston University.

He has broad expertise in fire modeling, fire effects, brushland fire ecosystems and spatial patterns of fire disturbance. In addition to continuing his own fire management and ecology research, Moritz will serve as a link between faculty researchers and county Cooperative Extension advisors. He will also provide direct links with professional resource managers, landowners, policy-makers and a diverse array of public and private organizations on issues related to fire.

Before joining UC Cooperative Extension, Moritz was an assistant professor of geography at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

“We already have one of the largest wildland fire programs in the nation. Max adds expertise in shrubland ecology and fire management and helps serve the campus and community with the outreach component of Cooperative Extension,” said Rick Standiford, UC Berkeley associate dean for forestry.

The center’s expertise in wildland fire is well recognized, as evidenced by Assistant Professor Scott Stephens’ invited testimony at the recent Congressional hearing on the 2003 Southern California wildfires, which burned more than 739,000 acres.

Moritz will join the following College of Natural Resources fire researchers:

- Frank Beall--evaluation of housing and nearby vegetation for vulnerability to fires in the urban-wildland interface

- Keith Gilless--wildland fire protection planning, forest economics and management, evaluation of prescribed burning

- Peng Gong--remote sensing, map analysis, fire emissions

- Richard Harris--landowner-based stewardship plans, community education

- Maggi Kelly--GIS and landscape change, including statewide tracking of resource changes related to fire

- Doug McCreary--oak regeneration, woodland management, agroforestry, effects of fire on oaks

- Gary Nakamura--community-based forestry, helping Fire Safe Councils and Resource Conservation Districts to understand fire issues and the role and impacts of biomass harvesting on fuels and fire

- Tom Scott--wildlife conservation, response of wildlife to human disturbances such as fire

- John Shelly--forest products and use of trees, shrubs and other vegetation that accumulate to unacceptably high levels in coniferous forests, oak woodland, rangeland and even in urban forests

- Richard Standiford--resource economics, forestry, hardwood rangelands, forest management, and the effects of thinning oaks to reduce fire threat

- Scott L. Stephens--interactions of wildland fire and ecosystems

- David Wood--bark beetle infestation of pine forests in Southern California

For more information about Berkeley’s fire program and Center for Forestry fire experts, visit The Fire Center, or contact Rick Standiford at (510) 643-5428 or