Planning for recovery and resiliency in the Thomas Fire and Whittier Fire scars

Project Dates

2019 - 2022


In this project, the data-gathering potential of community scientists was combined with decision science to help land managers prioritize habitat restoration locations and projects. Ninety-seven community members were recruited and trained to survey 84 miles (135 kilometers) of trails over two field seasons, gathering the locations of invasive and rare plant species, trail damage, and erosion and creating landscape photo-monitoring stations. Staff scientists gathered the same data for more than 250 miles (402 kilometers) of trails, 50 miles (80 kilometers) of which overlapped with the community members. Partners at Conservation Biology Institute combined field observations with other geographic data in a tree-based multi-criteria decision analysis known as the Environmental Evaluation Modeling System. We found that volunteer scientists were generally successful at finding populations of large, showy invasive species but were less adept when mapping large, continuous patches of weeds. The data collected by volunteer scientists supplemented and complemented the data collected by professional surveyors, while engaging these community members in botany and conservation. Based on the results from this project, future post-fire surveying efforts could benefit from the collection of data by volunteer scientists.


To inform prioritized habitat restoration goals in the Thomas Fire scar and Whittier Fire scar areas and to assess the benefits of involving community scientists in data collection

Report: Thomas Fire Report 2022

Team Members

Josie Lesage, Ph.D.

Kylie Etter

Matt Guilliams, Ph.D.

Kristen Lehman, Ph.D.

Denise Knapp, Ph.D.

Steve Windhager, Ph.D.

Sean Carson

Heather Schneider, Ph.D.


Conservation Biology Institute

Los Padres National Forest


California Department of Fish and Wildlife

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