Media Tip Sheet: Colorado State University Experts Available to Discuss Wildfire, Water and Drought Issues

Experts at Colorado State University can discuss a variety of subjects regarding wildfire, water resources and drought. The resources here are for reporter use only and not intended for publication.

Weather and climate

Fire weather
Sher Schranz, senior project manager with Colorado State’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere in collaboration with the NOAA Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, can talk about “fire weather,” which is a term used to define the research, technology, modeling, and observational sensors used to better assist emergency officials and firefighters with prediction of wildfires. To speak with Schranz, contact Emily Wilmsen at or (970) 491-2336.

Tornado detection and warning systems
V. “Chandra” Chandrasekar professor of electrical and computer engineering, has helped develop a critical network of radar systems for deployment across the country, including a system that has been tested for several years in Oklahoma’s tornado alley and is being installed this summer in a major metropolitan area (Dallas-Fort Worth) for the first time. Chandra has been a key CSU player in the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, or CASA – an Engineering Research Center that is developing the network. He is the leader of the sensing thrust of the project and also the deputy director for CASA. He is the co-principal investigator for the CSU-CHILL National Radar facility as well as a member of the remote sensing research team at NASA. To speak with Chandra, contact Emily Wilmsen at or (970) 491-2336.

How tornadoes form
Dan Lindsey, an atmospheric researcher with CSU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, can talk about key forecasting factors with tornadoes such as moisture, low-pressure systems, clouds and supercells. To speak with Lindsey, contact Emily Wilmsen at or (970) 491-2336.

Weather observation and historical climate data
Colorado State University State Climatologist Nolan Doesken is available to discuss snow totals and impacts on drought, weather observation, historical climate data, precipitation and seasonal weather patterns. He also can address agricultural, recreational, hydrologic and industrial applications of climate information. Doesken’s 36 years of professional experience in weather research, climate studies, data acquisition, analysis and archiving provides him the expertise to address a wide variety of climate-related questions. He can also talk about the statewide volunteer network, called the Community Collaborative Rain, Snow and Hail Network, that improves precipitation monitoring and helps provide detailed storm analysis, drought, water supply and other water decision-making information to municipalities, homeowners, industries, utility providers, resource managers and educators. To speak with Doesken, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

How do animals escape the summer heat?
Greg Florant, professor in the Department of Biology at Colorado State University, can talk about “estivators,” which are mammals that escape the heat during summer months. He has spent a large part of his career studying how marmots and ground squirrels use fats and other nutrients to hibernate. In his most recent study, Florant has identified a molecule that, when activated, makes marmots hungry during their hibernation phase. This molecule, named AMPK, is common to all living things. Knowing how to manipulate this molecule could open the door to understanding human obesity and eating disorders. To speak with Florant, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

Improving levees
Chris Thornton, professor of civil engineering, can talk about CSU’s decades of work on levees, particularly testing earthen levees at the Engineering Research Center on the university’s Foothills Campus. That research includes generating guidelines and methodologies for determining the forces exerted on levees during extreme storm conditions for all levee systems. Scientists and engineers generally agree that there is a real need for more information about how levees can be designed to resist wave overtopping and the potential for erosion. Thornton has said that it’s not going to be one-size-fits-all fix. While testing can be specific to a field location and account for unique soil and vegetation combinations, scientists need to develop a toolkit of design methodologies to improve levees. To speak with Thornton, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

Colorado’s water – science, history and politics
Neil Grigg, civil engineering professor and renowned water resources engineering consultant, can discuss Colorado’s water history, drought management, government water resources planning, Western water management issues, water system infrastructure engineering, flood control and urban water systems management. Grigg is the author of "Colorado’s Water: Science and Management, History and Politics," a book that presents long-range views about Colorado’s water issues, including drought. He has authored or co-authored about 200 publications and several other books about water resources engineering and infrastructure. To speak with Grigg, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

Fire behavior and effects
Monique Rocca, assistant professor of wildland fire science at CSU, is available to talk about the role of wildfire in natural ecosystems, fire behavior and how management activities such as fire suppression, prescribed fire and forest thinning can affect natural ecosystems and future wildfires. She can also discuss the effects of the mountain pine beetle outbreak in Colorado on future wildfires and what the future may hold for affected forests. To speak with Rocca, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Bill Romme, fire ecology professor, can discuss fire management policies, the effects of fires on organisms, populations, communities and ecosystems as well as the ecological role of fire in various major vegetation types of North America. He can also talk about the effects of fires in Yellowstone National Park on nitrogen and carbon cycling and re-growth of lodgepole pine forests. To speak with Romme, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Boyd Lebeda, Colorado State Forest Service Fort Collins district forester, can talk about fire behavior in various fuel types and near homes in the wildland-urban interface. To speak with Lebeda, contact Ryan Lockwood at (970) 491-6303 or

Wildfire economics
Douglas Rideout, CSU wildfire economist and director of the WESTFIRE Research Center, can discuss the economics and management of wild and prescribed fires, the wildland-urban interface, strategic analysis and budgeting of fire programs, fuel management and initial attack systems. The center has played a central role in the construction and implementation of the new Fire Program Analysis system that is being implemented nationally to support fire program planning. To speak with Rideout, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Forest fuel management
Frederick "Skip" Smith, department head of CSU’s Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, is available to discuss how forest and fuel management is a key factor in reducing wildland fire risk. To speak with Smith, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Health of Colorado’s forests
Jessica Clement, co-director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, is available to talk about ways to restore or enhance Colorado’s forests, how to reduce wildfire risk while meeting other objectives and generally working toward a vibrant future of forested landscapes in Colorado. The Colorado Forest Restoration Institute was established by Congress to work with state and federal partners and communities to actively restore forest landscape health and reduce the risk of severe wildfires. She can also speak on community forest initiatives, collaborative forest management on any scale and finding ways to explore ecologically, economically and socially desirable conditions for future forests. To speak with Clement, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Bark beetles/forest insect and disease issues
Sky Stephens, CSFS forest entomologist, can discuss bark beetles, the importance of keeping bug-infested firewood out of Colorado, the CSFS annual aerial survey of insect and disease activity in Colorado and other forest insect and disease issues. To speak with Stephens, contact Ryan Lockwood at (970) 491-6303 or

Wildfire risk reduction/individual fire preparedness
Lisa Mason, Colorado State Forest Service outreach forester, can discuss wildfire mitigation around homes and subdivisions, defensible space, and programs such as Are You FireWise? and Plains FireWise. To speak with Mason, contact Ryan Lockwood at (970) 491-6303 or

Community Wildfire Protection Plans
Travis Griffin, Colorado State Forest Service Community Wildfire Protection Plan coordinator, can discuss Community Wildfire Protection Plans: what they are, where they have been implemented, how they are created, why they are important and the necessary steps to implement them. To speak with Griffin, contact Ryan Lockwood at (970) 491-6303 or

State firefighting resources/fire suppression
Rich Homann, Colorado State Forest Service fire division supervisor, can talk about the state’s engine crews and other firefighting resources and how they’re positioned throughout the state to assist local resources in suppressing wildfires during initial attack. To speak with Homann, contact Ryan Lockwood at (970) 491-6303 or

Impacts on water run-off
Lee MacDonald, professor of land-use hydrology in CSU’s Watershed Science Program, can discuss effects of forest management and changes in forest cover, including beetle kill, on run-off (peak flows, low flows and annual water yields) and erosion. He can also discuss the effects of wild and prescribed fires on run-off and erosion, hydrologic recovery and the effectiveness of burned area emergency rehabilitation techniques. To speak with MacDonald, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Snowmelt, run-off and streamflow
Steven Fassnacht, associate professor of snow hydrology in CSU’s Watershed Science Program, can discuss ongoing analyses of mountain snow characteristics across various portions of the Colorado River basin. He is also available to discuss this year’s unprecedented snow levels across northern Colorado. The region has almost 25 percent more snow than has ever been observed in the past 75 years and 30 percent more than has been observed in the past 30 years. To speak with Fassnacht, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Bark beetle mitigation options
Ron Cousineau and John Twitchell, Colorado State Forest Service district foresters, can discuss forest management related to mitigating the spread of and damage from bark beetles, including tactics to protect healthy trees, improve overall forest health and reduce the risk of falling tree hazards. To speak with Cousineau or Twitchell, contact Ryan Lockwood at (970) 491-6303 or