Wildfire, Smoke and Air Quality Experts

woman in yellow jacket rakes leaves during prescribed burn as flames slowly burn leaves in foreground
Yoshi Maezumi rakes at a prescribed burn in Placerville with UC Davis fire ecology students and community partners. (c) Tim McConville, UC Davis

The following sources from the University of California, Davis, are available to talk with media about climate change and wildfire, smoke and air quality. 

More UC Davis climate change experts lists are available under the topic areas of atmospheric sciences, water, wildlife, agriculture, energy and transportation, and community resilience.

Forestry and plants

Malcolm North is a forest ecologist with the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region and an adjunct professor at UC Davis. He can discuss climate change impacts on wildfire and forest management. Contact: 530-902-8135, mnorth@ucdavis.edu

Hugh Safford is a research ecologist in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy and chief scientist of Vibrant Planet, an environmental public benefits corporation that works in wildfire risk mitigation and climate change. Safford was regional ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Southwest Region until he retired in 2021. He can discuss climate change adaptation, fire and vegetation ecology, wildfire risk mitigation, forest and ecosystem management, ecological restoration, and science application and translation. Contact: hdsafford@ucdavis.edu

Male forester in yellow hard hat and yellow shirt with hand held in front of him, speaking, during prescribed burn
John Williams, a UC Davis project scientist, is leading a monitoring program for several prescribed burns across California to better understand their effectiveness. (Tim McConville/UC Davis)

John N. Williams is an ecologist and project scientist in the Safford Lab at UC Davis where he studies the effects of natural and prescribed fire on forest ecosystems. He coordinates the California State Parks Wildfire and Forest Resilience Monitoring Program and contributes to the California Prescribed Fire Monitoring Program, a joint effort between UC Davis and Cal Fire. Contact: jnwill@ucdavis.edu

Andrew Latimer, a professor of plant sciences, can discuss how forests and grasslands respond to climate change, drought and fire. Contact: 530-309-9111, amlatimer@ucdavis.edu

Mark Schwartz, an ecologist and professor of environmental science and policy, can speak broadly about climate change impacts on forested ecosystems, stressors and management responses. Contact: mwschwartz@ucdavis.edu

James Thorne, a research scientist with the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, can discuss the vulnerability of California’s vegetation to climate change over the coming decades. He can also discuss issues related to water, ecosystems, conservation and land use. Contact: jhthorne@ucdavis.edu

Anita Oberholster is a Cooperative Extension specialist in enology. She can discuss the potential impacts of wildfire smoke on wine grapes, or “smoke taint.” Contact: 530-754-4866, aoberholster@ucdavis.edu

Justin Michael Valliere is a plant ecologist and Assistant Professor of Cooperative Extension in Invasive Weed and Restoration Ecology in the Department of Plant Sciences. He is interested in how plant communities respond to new stressors and disturbances, including invasive species, wildfire and environmental change. He also researches how to best restore native ecosystems in the face of environmental change. Justin also explores how nitrogen deposition from air pollution influences native plant diversity, the spread of invasive species, and wildfire recovery. jmvalliere@ucdavis.edu

Birds sit on top of solar panels with orange-tinted sky in the background.
Smoke from the Camp Fire in 2018 turns the sky over UC Davis a hazy orange. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Air quality, smoke and health

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, is professor of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the UC Davis School of Medicine and directs the Environmental Health Sciences Center. An environmental epidemiologist, she can discuss the potential health impacts of wildfire, smoke and other environmental exposures. Contact: ihp@ucdavis.edu, 530-848-9495, or Lisa Howard at UC Davis Health, 916-752-6394, lehoward@ucdavis.edu

Anthony Wexler, director of the Air Quality Research Center, can discuss air quality of urban and natural areas, and the impacts of wildfire, emissions and other forms of pollution on air quality. Contact: 530-754-6558, aswexler@ucdavis.edu

Kent Pinkerton, professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine and director of Center for Health and the Environment, can discuss the health effects of inhaled environmental air pollutants, including smoke from wildfires. Contact: 530-752-8334, kepinkerton@ucdavis.edu   

Rebecca Schmidt is a molecular epidemiologist and professor in the UC Davis School of Medicine. She can discuss how exposure to wildfire smoke during pregnancy may impact birth outcomes. Contact: rjschmidt@ucdavis.edu

Lisa Miller is professor of anatomy, physiology and cell biology in the School of Veterinary Medicine and associate director of research at the California National Primate Research Center. She studies how environmental exposures like air pollution, allergens and microbes affect pulmonary and immune system development during the first year of life. She can discuss health impacts of wildfire smoke for children and adults. Contact: lmiller@ucdavis.edu

Air quality researcher Keith Bein smiles for profile shot in the lab
Air quality professional researcher Keith Bein. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Keith Bein is a professional researcher within the Air Quality Research Center, and Center for Health and the Environment. He can discuss the health effects of air pollution and smoke from wildfires, the role of particles in climate change, air sampling techniques and environmental justice. Contact: 530-570-2562, kjbein@ucdavis.edu

Helene Margolis is an associate adjunct professor with UC Davis Health and School of Medicine. She can discuss the health impacts of climate change and environmental factors, most notably heat and air pollution, on vulnerable populations, especially children and older adults. Contact: hgmargolis@ucdavis.edu 

Jamie Hansen-Lewis is an assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics. She can discuss the effect of maritime air quality regulations on human health. Contact: jhansenlewis@ucdavis.edu

Adaptation, resilient construction and managed retreat

Michele Barbato is a structural engineering and structural mechanics professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He also co-directs the UC Davis Climate Adaptation Research Center and directs the CITRIS Climate Initiative. His research is focused on developing sustainable and wildfire-resilient construction materials. He can also discuss wildfire risk assessment and mitigation, and other hazard mitigation strategies for earthquakes, hurricanes, wind and climate-related challenges. Languages: English, Italian. Contact: mbarbato@ucdavis.edu

A close-up of a wood block and earth block and a blowtorch
Ph.D. candidate Nitin Kumar holds a blow torch to a lab-made earth block and a wooden block as part or research led by Michele Barbato. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Emily Schlickman is an assistant professor of landscape architecture and environmental design in the Department of Human Ecology. She’s a co-author with Brett Milligan of the upcoming book “Design By Fire,” which examines how and where people in fire-prone areas live to better adapt to wildfire. She can discuss wildfire, managed retreat, climate change adaptation and how to bolster resilience in wildfire-prone areas. Contact: eschlickman@ucdavis.edu 

Brett Milligan is an associate professor of landscape architecture and environmental design in the Department of Human Ecology. He’s a co-author with Emily Schlickman of the upcoming book “Design By Fire,” which examines how and where people in fire-prone areas can better co-exist with wildfire. He also directs the Metamorphic Landscapes Lab, which works with public agencies and stakeholders to design landscape-based adaptions to accelerated climate and environmental change. He can discuss managed retreat and climate adaptation. Contact: bmilligan@ucdavis.edu 

Cultural burning and Indigenous fire

Beth Rose Middleton Manning (Afro-Caribbean, Eastern European) is a professor of Native American studies at UC Davis. Her research centers on Native environmental policy and Native activism for site protection using conservation tools. She co-created the course “Keepers of the Flame” and can discuss cultural burning, or Indigenous fire, and its careful application by Native people to manage landscapes. Contact: brmiddleton@ucdavis.edu

Beth Rose Middleton Manning in yellow jacket leans over burning pile of deergrass near other participants of a cultural burn at a nature reserve.
Beth Rose Middleton Manning throws deergrass onto a burning pile as she and students in the “Keepers of the Flame” class take part in a cultural burn at the Tending and Gathering Garden at the Cache Creek Nature Preserve in Woodland in January 2020. (Alysha Beck/UC Davis)

Deniss Martinez  is program manager for the UC Davis Environmental and Climate Justice Hub and a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Group in Ecology. She conducts research into forest management policies and restoring cultural fire practices for Indigenous communities in California and teaches cultural Indigenous practices, environmental justice and policymaking to undergraduates. Contact: djmartinez@ucdavis.edu

Forests, drones and remote sensors

Gary Bucciarelli directs the Lassen Field Station for UC Davis Natural Reserves and leads a project using artificial intelligence to analyze the impacts of wildfire on natural ecosystems. He can discuss forest ecology, conservation, fire and the use of AI technologies to better understand them. His primary focus is freshwater ecosystems, California amphibians and invasive species, so he can also discuss how frogs and salamanders are impacted by drought and climate change. Contact: garyb@ucdavis.edu

Derek Young is a research scientist in the Department of Plant Sciences. He leads the Open Forest Observatory and can discuss forest disturbance, ecology and management, as well as the use of drones for forest research. Contact: djyoung@ucdavis.edu

Male researcher Derek Young flies drone in conifer forest
UC Davis ecologist Derek Young tests a drone in 2020 in the Modoc National Forest in northeastern California. (Tara Ursell/UC Davis)

Zhaodan Kong is an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. He can discuss the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones and UAV swarms to monitor and combat wildfire. Contact: zdkong@ucdavis.edu

Cristina Davis is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and associate vice chancellor of Interdisciplinary Research and Strategic Initiatives. She designs and implements cutting-edge chemical sensor systems to solve real-world problems and enable trace chemical detection in challenging environments. She can discuss the use of sensors with respect to wildfire-related issues. Contact: cedavis@ucdavis.edu

After the fire

Valerie Eviner is a professor and ecologist in the Department of Plant Sciences. She researches plant-soil-animal interactions and the resilience of ecosystems under changing conditions. She can discuss the impacts of wildfire and post-wildfire recovery in California landscapes, such as grasslands, oak woodlands and riparian areas. She can also discuss how a history of burning influences drought, and how land management (e.g. grazing, prescribed fires, vegetation restoration) can influence wildfire impacts, and post-fire recovery. Contact: veviner@ucdavis.edu

Jasquelin Peña is an associate professor of environmental engineering. She is an expert in molecular and environmental geochemistry and joins this perspective with community-engaged science to study fire-impacted watersheds. She can discuss the impacts of wildfire on water quality and soil processes. Contact: pena@ucdavis.edu    

Wildlife and wildfires

Michael Ziccardi directs the UC Davis One Health Institute, Wildlife Disaster Network, California Veterinary Emergency Team (CVET), and Oiled Wildlife Care Network. A wildlife veterinarian, he can discuss the challenges and strategies of wildlife care response during wildfires. Contact: mhziccardi@ucdavis.edu

Jamie Peyton is a critical care specialist with the UC Davis Wildlife Disaster Network within the One Health Institute and School of Veterinary Medicine. She pioneered an innovative treatment using the skin from tilapia fish as bandages for wildfire with severe burns. She’s applied the treatment to help many burned animals recover, from bears and mountain lions to horses and kittens. She can discuss wildlife response issues and tactics related to wildfire. Contact: jlpeyton@ucdavis.edu

Jaime Peyton at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital fits a tilapia skin bandaid over the burned pads of a mountain lion cub.
Jamie Peyton at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital fits a tilapia skin bandage over the burned pads of a mountain lion cub. (​Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Burn injury

Tina L. Palmieri is a professor in the Department of Surgery, director of the Firefighters Burn Institute Burn Center at UC Davis, and assistant chief of burns for Shriners Hospital for Children Northern California. She can discuss the effects, treatment, and outcomes of all types of burn injury, including wildfires, as well as triage, medical response, and prevention of wildfire burns. Contact: 916-453-2050; or Public Affairs at UC Davis Health, 916-734-9040, hs-publicaffairs@ucdavis.edu


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This experts list was updated in Aug 2023 from previous versions in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

Media Resources

Media Contact:

  • Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-750-9195, kekerlin@ucdavis.edu

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