ENCORE: Rick Halsey – Wildfire Ecology in the Chaparral and the American West

#9: Rick Halsey – Wildfire Ecology in the Chaparral and the American West Nature's Archive


This is an encore of my popular wildfire in the west interview with Rick Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute.

Don’t worry, more great new episodes are coming.  Do you want to learn about bird migration forecasting? I’ve got you covered. And how about maximizing your nature observations when in the field? Covered again. And I have a bunch of other episodes and new projects in the works, too, from wild memes to beavers to mycelium – that confirms it! I’m really a fungi!

Onto the encore of episode 9. And if you enjoy the topic of wildfire, also check episode #24 with Justin Angle.

Rick Halsey is the author of “Fire, Chaparral, and Survival in Southern California”, and has a background in Environmental Studies, Anthropology, and Education, with degrees from University of California Santa Barbara and Cal State San Diego and UC Berkeley. 

He is the founder and director of the California Chaparral Institute, dedicated to preserving California’s chaparral through scientific research, nature education, and activism. Chaparral habitats are expansive and the most important habitat at the wildland/urban interface in California’s major cities. 

In this episode we discuss the myths and realities of wildfire. There are many eye opening insights that often get lost in our desire to have single, simple answers. That’s the theme of the episode – nuance. Causes and solutions vary by habitat and condition. And while we focus a lot on California, the principles apply to much of the west.

We discuss the ecosystems of the west, their historical fire behaviors and how that history was determined through charcoal records and tree ring analysis. We discuss the fact that huge, hot fires are not necessarily unnatural, and why the “fuel build up” narrative is often untrue, and when it makes sense. And the dramatic increase in human caused ignitions, which often occur at the more unnatural and dangerous times of the season. We discuss indigenous fire management practices and their application, some simple solutions for people living in the wildland-urban interface, and more.

We also delve into Rick’s insights as a science educator. His skill and dedication led to him receiving the McAuliffe Fellowship. Over the years he’s fine-tuned his delivery and we discuss his wonderful essay on his transformation from lecturer to the engage model.

People and Organizations Discussed

Keith Lombardo, Ph. D. – researcher who correlated charcoal records and tree-ring data, among other accomplishments.

Jack Cohen, Ph. D. – fire researcher who has shown defensible space is only a small part of the equation for property owners – ember spread is more of an issue.

California Chaparral Institute – founded by Rick Halsey, dedicated to preserving what remains of California’s chaparral through scientific research, nature education, and activism.

WASP – vendor of exterior sprinklers to protect against ember-driven wildfires

Santa Monica National Recreation Area wildfire and chaparral resources

Books and Other Things Discussed

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Fire, Chaparral, and Survival in Southern California – the book that Rick Halsey wrote

The Camp Fire and the Paradise, CA disaster – actually partially burned over land that burned just 10 years ago.

Oakland Hills Firestorm of 1991 – a wind and ember-driven fire that burned many homes

Cedar Fire – massive wind-driven wildfire in 2003 in San Diego County

2007 California Fire Storm

Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park disaster – a community burned by the Tubbs Fire, built in an area known to have a fire history.

The Rim Fire at Yosemite National Park – started by an illegal backcountry camp fire

The study showing improved hospital recovery outcomes for patients facing a park,

Rick’s transformation from lecturer to the engage model

The American Birding Association (ABA) Podcast about Steve Maguire’s high school ornithology class.

The Nature Fix – Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative – by Florence Williams, a book that Rick recommends

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

One thought on “ENCORE: Rick Halsey – Wildfire Ecology in the Chaparral and the American West

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s