Carol Miller

Emeritus Scientist, Wilderness Fire

Carol and Fall leaves

Research Interests

I am interested in developing a better understanding of the role of wildland fire as a natural ecosystem process and applying that knowledge to help guide the stewardship of this process in wilderness. Research activities broadly include:

  • Quantifying the biophysical drivers of fire regimes.
  • Analyzing interactions among fire regimes, climate, and vegetation pattern.
  • Exploring the implications of fire suppression and our ability to restore fire as an ecosystem process.
  • Investigating the effects of global climatic change on fire regimes.



Ph.D., Ecology, 1998. - Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. Dissertation: Climate, Forest Pattern, and Surface Fire Regimes in the Sierra Nevada, California.
M.S., Forest Sciences, 1994. - Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. Thesis: A model of the interactions among climate, fire, and forest pattern in the Sierra Nevada.
B.S., Electrical Engineering, 1985.- Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA.


After a brief career as an engineer, Carol has found much more satisfaction in the field of ecology. As a graduate student, she developed and used a simulation model to study the interactions among climate, fire, and forest pattern in the Sierra Nevada of California.

After a postdoctoral appointment at the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute and The University of Montana School of Forestry, she became the fire ecologist here at the Institute. Her program of research seeks to help land managers understand how to include wildland fire as an ecological process to landscapes.

Research Projects

Current (PI or co-PI):

  • A science program to support management of fire as a natural process (National Fire Plan, FY16-FY19):
    • Using wilderness as a natural benchmark for understanding fire regimes.
    • Fire risk analysis to support managed wildfire.
    • Assessing and understanding fire-facilitated ecosystem change.
    • Understanding the role of fire refugia in promoting ecosystem resilience.
    • Synthesizing lessons from the history of wilderness fire management.
  • Identifying ecological and social resilience in fire-prone landscapes (Joint Fire Sciences Program, FY16-FY19)

Completed (PI or co-PI):

  • Improving our understanding of the ability of wildland fire to act as a fuel treatment (National Fire Plan, FY15-FY17)



MILLER, C. 2012. The hidden consequences of fire suppression. Park Science. 28(3): 75-80.

PARKS, S.A.; PARISIEN, M.-A.; MILLER, C. 2012. Spatial bottom-up controls on fire likelihood vary across western North America. Ecosphere 3(1): Article 12.

SCOTT, J.H.; HELMBRECHT, D.J.; PARKS, S.A.; MILLER, C. 2012. Quantifying the threat of unsuppressed wildfires reaching the adjacent wildland-urban interface on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming, USA. Fire Ecology 8(2): 12-142.

MILLER, C.; AGER, A. 2013. A review of recent advances in risk analysis for wildfire management. International Journal of Wildland Fire 22: 1-14.

HAIRE, S.L.; McGARIGAL, K.; MILLER, C. 2013. Wilderness shapes contemporary fire size distributions across landscapes of the western U.S. Ecosphere 4(1):15.

FULÉ, P.Z.; SWETNAM, T.W.; BROWN, P.B.; FALK, D.A.; PETERSON, D.L.; AND ALLEN, C.D.; APLET, G.H.; BATAGLIA, M.A.; BINKLEY, D.; FARRIS, C.; KEANE, R.E.; MARGOLIS, E.Q.; GRISSINO-MAYER, H.; MILLER, C.; SIEG, C.; SKINNER, C.; STEPHENS, S.L.; TAYLOR, A. 2014. Unsupported and inaccurate inferences of high severity fire in historical western United States dry forests: Response to Williams and Baker. Global Ecology and Biogeography 23(7): 825-830.

PARKS, S.A.; MILLER, C.; NELSON, C.R.; HOLDEN, Z.A. 2014. Previous fires moderate burn severity of subsequent wildland fires in two large western US wilderness areas. Ecosystems 17:29-42.

MORGAN, P.; HEYERDAHL, E.K.; MILLER, C.; WILSON, A.M.; GIBSON, C.E. 2014. Northern Rockies pyrogeography: an example of fire atlas utility. Fire Ecology 10(1):14-30.

PARKS, S.A.; DILLON, G.K.; MILLER, C. 2014. A new metric for quantifying burn severity: the relativized burn ratio. Remote Sensing 6(3): 1827-1844.

PARKS, S.A.; PARISIEN, M.A.; MILLER, C.; DOBROWSKI, S.Z. (2014) Fire activity and severity in the western US vary along proxy gradients representing fuel amount and fuel moisture. PLoS ONE 9(6): e99699.

BATLLORI, E.; MILLER, C.; PARISIEN, M.A.; PARKS, S.A.; MORITZ, M.A. 2014. Is US climatic diversity well represented within the existing federal protection network? Ecological Applications 24(8): 1898-1907.

WHITMAN, E.; BATLLORI, E.; PARISIEN, M.A.; MILLER, C.; COOP, J.D.; KRAWCHUK, M.A.; CHONG, G.W.; HAIRE, S.L. 2015. The climate space of fire regimes in north-western North America. Journal of Biogeography 42(9): 1736-1749.

HAIRE, S.L.; MILLER, C.; MCGARIGAL, K. 2015. Influence of landscape gradients in wilderness management and spatial climate on fire severity in the Northern Rockies USA, 1984 to 2010. In: Keane, R.E.; Jolly, M.; Parsons, R.; Riley, K. Proceedings of the large wildland fires conference; May 19-23, 2014; Missoula, MT. Proc. RMRS-P-73. Fort Collins, CO; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 104-110.

THOMAS, D.; FOX, R.L.; MILLER, C. 2015. Voices from the Field: Wildland Fire Managers and High-Reliability Organizing Mindfulness. Journal of Society & Natural Resources 8: 825-838.

PARKS, S.A.; MILLER, C.; PARISIEN, M.A.; HOLSINGER, L.M.; DOBROWSKI, S.Z.; ABATZOGLOU, J.T. 2015. Wildland fire deficit and surplus in the western United States, 1984-2012. Ecosphere 6(12): 275.

HESSBURG, P.F.; et al (including MILLER, C.) 2015. Restoring fire-prone Inland Pacific landscapes: seven core principles. Landscape Ecology 30(10): 1805-1835.

KEANE, R.E.; LOEHMAN, R.; CLARK, J.; SMITHWICK, E.A.H.; MILLER, C. 2015. Exploring interactions among multiple disturbance agents in forest landscapes: simulating effects of fire, beetles and disease under climate change. Pages 201-231 in Simulation Modeling of Forest Landscape Disturbances. H.A. Perera, R.B. Sturtevant, and J.L. Buse. Cham, Springer International Publishing.

KEANE, R.E.; MCKENZIE, D.; FALK, D.A.; SMITHWICK, E.A.H.; MILLER, C.; KELLOGG, L.-K.B. 2015. Representing climate, disturbance, and vegetation interactions in landscape models. Ecological Modelling 309-310: 33-47.

PARKS, S.A.; HOLSINGER, L.M.; MILLER, C.; NELSON, C.R. 2015. Wildland fire as a self-regulating mechanism: the role of previous burns and weather in limiting fire progression. Ecological Applications 25(6): 1478-1492.

PARKS, S.A.; MILLER, C.; HOLSINGER, L.M.; BAGGETT, L.S.; BIRD, B.J. 2016. Wildland fire limits subsequent fire occurrence. International Journal of Wildland Fire 25: 182-190.

MILLER, C.; APLET, G.H. 2016. Progress in wilderness fire science: embracing complexity. Journal of Forestry 114(3): 373-383.

PARKS, S.A.; MILLER, C.; ABATZOGLOU, J.T.; HOLSINGER, L.M.; PARISIEN, M.A.; DOBROWSKI, S.Z. 2016. How will climate change affect wildland fire severity in the western US? Environmental Research Letters 11: 035002 (1-10).

ROBINNE, F.; MILLER, C.; PARISIEN, M.A.; EMELKO, M.B.; BLADON, K.D.; SILINS, U. FLANNIGAN, M. 2016. A global index for mapping the exposure of water resources to wildfire. Forests 7(1): 22.

BARNETT, K.M.; MILLER, C.; VENN, T.J. (in press). 2016. Using risk analysis to reveal opportunities for the management of unplanned ignitions in wilderness. Journal of Forestry. 114(6):610-618.

BARNETT, K.; PARKS, S.A.; MILLER, C.; NAUGHTON, H.T. 2016. Beyond fuel treatment effectiveness: characterizing interactions between fire and treatments in the US. Forests 7(10):237.

HOLSINGER, L.M.; PARKS, S.A.; MILLER, C. 2016. Weather, fuels, and topography impede wildland fire spread in western US landscapes. Forest Ecology and Management 380:59-69.

KRAWCHUK, M.A.; HAIRE, S.; COOP, J.; PARISIEN, M.A.; WHITMAN, E.; CHONG, G.; MILLER, C. 2016. Topographic and fire weather controls of contemporary fire refugia in forested ecosystems of northwestern North America. Ecosphere 7(12):e01632.

PARISIEN, M.A.; MILLER, C.; PARKS, S.A.; DELANCEY, E.R.; ROBINNE, F.N.; FLANNIGAN, M.D. 2016. The spatially varying influence of humans on area burned in North America. Environmental Research Letters 11(7): 075005.

BATLLORI, E.; PARISIEN, M.; PARKS, S.A.; MORITZ, M.A.; MILLER, C. 2017. Potential relocation of climatic environments suggests high rates of climate displacement within the North American protection network. Global Change Biology 2017:1-12. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13663.

HAIRE, S.L.; COOP, J.D.; MILLER, C. 2017. Characterizing spatial neighborhoods of refugia following large fires in northern New Mexico, USA. Land 2017, 6, 19.

PARKS, S.A.; HOLSINGER, L.; MILLER, C. PARISIEN, M. 2018. Analog-based fire regime and vegetation shifts in mountainous regions of the western US. Ecography 41(6): 910-921.

Parks, S.A.; PARISIEN, M.; MILLER, C.; HOLSINGER, L.M.; BAGGETT, L.S. 2018. Fine-scale spatial climate variation and drought mediate the likelihood of reburning. Ecological Applications. 28(2): 573-586.

ROBINNE, F.N.; BLADON, K.D.; MILLER, C.; PARISIEN, M.A.; MATHIEU, J.; FLANNIGAN, M.D. 2018. A spatial evaluation of global wildfire-water risks to human and natural systems. Science of the Total Environment 610-611; 1193-1206.

HIGUERA, P.; METCALF, A.; MILLER, C.; BUMA, B.; MCWETHY, D.; METCLAF, E. RATAJCZAK, Z.; NELSON, C.; CHAFFIN, B.; STEDMAN, R. MCCAFFREY, S.; SCHOENNAGEL, T.; HARVEY, B.; HOOD, S.; SCHULTZ, C.; BLACK, A.; CAMPBELL, D.; HAGGERTY, J.; KEANE, R.; KRAWCHUK, M.; KULIG, J.; RAFFERTY, R.; VIRAPONGSE, A. 2019. Integrating subjective and objective dimensions of resilience in fire-prone landscapes. Bioscience 60(5): 379-388.

PARKS, S.; DOBROWSKI, S.; SHAW, J.; MILLER, C. 2019. Living on the edge: trailing edge forests at risk of fire-facilitated conversion to non-forest. Ecosphere 10(3): Article e02651.



  • Helmbrecht, Don. M.S. A modeling approach to analyzing ecological condition as a result of alternative fuel treatment strategies. University of Montana.
  • Rodriguez, Josh. M.S. Quantification and comparison of post-fire landscapes in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. University of Montana.
  • Gibson, Carly. M.S. Climate drivers of regional fire years in the northern Rocky Mountains.University of Idaho.
  • Haire, Sandra. PhD. Disturbance ecology of Rocky Mountain pine forests: conservation implications. University of Massachusetts.
  • Robinne, François. PhD. Wildfire risks on drinking water in Alberta. University of Alberta.


Professional Affiliations:

  • Society For Wilderness Stewardship
  • U. S. International Association for Landscape Ecology, US-IALE
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Association for Fire Ecology

Carol Miller Video