AFE Award Winners


Lifetime Achievement Awards

AFE is proud to award three individuals with Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2017. The awardees have demonstrated a career’s worth of meaningful contributions to expanding our understanding and application of fire ecology, and have inspired and mentored a generation of fire scientists and managers. Congratulations Norm, Tom, and Penny! 

Norm Christensen, Herbert Stoddard Award

Dr. Norm Christensen is Professor and Dean Emeritus at The Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Since completing his PhD in Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1973, Norm has published over 210 refereed articles, 5 books, and has served as Major Professor on over 30 PhD committees. The students he has trained will continue to lead us forward in fire ecology and management for a long time to come. He is a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ecological Society of America, has served on countless advisory boards and committees in service to his profession, and has been at the helm of organizations such as the Ecological Society of America. Norm has written widely on the importance of natural disturbance in the management of forests, shrublands, and wetlands, and on the concept of ecosystem management.

Tom Bragg, Henry Wright Award

Dr. Tom Bragg is a Professor of Plant Community Dynamics and Fire Ecology in the Department of Biology at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, where he has been since completing his PhD in Biology at Kansas State University in 1974.  Tom hit the ground running, by publishing what is considered one of the all-time classic papers on plant invasions in the Journal of Range Management, “Woody plant invasion of unburned Kansas bluestem prairie.” Tom’s work has ranged from Northern Mixed Grass Prairies in the US, to desert grasslands and shrublands in western Australia. He has devoted multiple decades to advancing knowledge of prairie restoration through the use of various seasons of fire. He has made a tremendous contribution to the field of fire ecology through his involvement in long-term fire ecology research in grasslands.  Tom has made over 170 seminars and presentations regarding fire ecology and prairie restoration among other topics. He has chaired over 60 Master of Science Committees and served on 10 PhD and 78 MS committees, and continues to teach courses in Ecology, Plant Ecology, Fire Ecology and in Communities and Ecosystems.

Penny Morgan, Harold Biswell Award

Dr. Penny Morgan received her PhD from the University of Idaho in 1984, joined their College of Natural Resources two years later, and is currently the Professor of Forest Resources in the Forest, Rangeland, and Fire Sciences Department. Over her career, she has received over 13 awards, and authored or co-authored 85 peer-reviewed journal articles, 12 book chapters, 28 technical reports, and 60 conference proceedings. Many of these papers are highly cited in the fire science field, and perhaps the most extraordinary characteristic of her extensive publication record is the broad range of topics on which she has published from applied prescribed fire science to landscape modeling, fire severity, landscape fire ecology, and fire-climate relationships. She has mentored over 40 PhD and MS students, 10 senior thesis students, over 150 undergraduates, and has been a graduate committee member for 50 graduate students. She led the development of the country’s first-ever BS and Master’s degree programs in Fire Ecology and Management. Penny has always been visionary about her approach to preparing the future fire ecologists and to developing and delivering education and training to managers.

L to R: Lifetime Achievement Award Winners Penny Morgan, Tom Bragg, and Norm Christensen

Special Awards

These awards are presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to help AFE achieve its mission. We appreciate your time and dedication to the organization. Thank you Catia, Geoff, and Leda! 

Outstanding Staff Award: Catia Juliana

Outstanding Volunteer Award: Geoff Babb

Presidential Service Award: Leda Kobziar

Board member Adam Watts presenting an Outstanding Service Award to AFE President Leda Kobziar


(L to R) Andi Thode, Leda Kobziar, Tom Swetnam, Mark Kaib

Harold Biswell Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to Thomas Swetnam, in recognition of a significant lifetime contribution to fire ecology and management in the western United States.

Emma Williams and Leda Kobziar

Edward Komarek Sr. Graduate Student Excellence Award, presented to  Emma Williams, in recognition of academic excellence and involvement in fire related research and service

Elizabeth Wright and Leda Kobziar

Harold Weaver Undergraduate Student Excellence Award, presented to Elizabeth Wright In recognition of academic excellence and involvement in fire-related research and service.


2015 Lifetime Achievement Awards Winners in San Antonio (left to right): Cecil Frost, Wally Covington, John Weir

John Weir, 2015 Wright Award 

Cecil Frost, 2015 Stoddard Award

Wally Covington, 2015 Biswell Award 
Brian Oswald, 2015 Outstanding Service Award
Wright Award – John Weir  
Stoddard Award – Cecil Frost    
Biswell Award – Wally Covington
Mike daLuz Memorial Student Travel Scholarship – Esther Amoako
Special Recognition:  Outstanding Service Award – Brian Oswald

Wright Award – Dr. Richard Miller   

Stoddard Award – Dr. Bill Platt    

Biswell Award –   Dr. Ronald H. Wakimoto 

Mike daLuz Memorial Student Travel Scholarship – Vasyl Gumeniuk


Stoddard Award – Lane Green


Wright Award - Dr. David M. Engle 

Biswell Award – Dr. Jan van Wagtendonk (Fire Ecology Articles)

Stoddard Award – Dr. William Patterson
Special Recognition:  Presidential Award – Scott Stephens

Wright Award – Dr. Carlton Britton

Lifetime Achievement Award Winners for the 2012 Fire Congress: (left to right)  Brian Oswald (AFE Board President), Bill Patterson, Jan van Wagtendonk, David Engle


Biswell Award – Dr. Steve Bunting


Stoddard Award – Dr. Bill Boyer

Biswell Award – Dr. James K. Agee (Fire Ecology articles)


Stoddard Award – Dr. Alan J. Long

Biswell Award – Dr. Leon Neuenschwander


Stoddard Award – Dr. Edward R. Buckner

Biswell Award – Robert W. Mutch


Stoddard Award – Dr. David H. Van Lear

Biswell Award – Dr. Bruce M. Kilgore


Biswell Award – Dr. Stephen F. Arno


Stoddard  Award – Dale D. Wade (Fire Ecology articles)

Biswell Award – Dr. Robert E. Martin

AFE Award Winners Bios

Dr. Richard Miller, 2014 Wright Award 

Richard Miller has been studying and reporting on the fire ecology of northern Great Basin rangelands for nearly all his professional career.  The bulk of his research has always had a practical bent, intended to support and improve rangeland management by both public and private land owners and managers.  Rick's primary area of expertise is western juniper woodlands and mountain big sagebrush-steppe.

Rick has had papers published in BioScience, Oecologia, Ecological Applications, International Journal of Wildland Fire, Forest Ecology and Management, Forest Science, Journal of Arid Environments, Studies in Avian Biology, Journal of Wildlife Management, Great Basin Naturalist/Western North American Naturalist, Journal of Range Management/Range Ecology and Management and AFE's own Fire Ecology.  He is one of the most frequently cited authors in papers related to the ecology and expansion of piñon and juniper woodlands and fire history in the sagebrush biome. Rick was the senior author for the publication "Biology, ecology, and management of western juniper" of which thousands of copies have been requested both nationally and internationally.  The first printing of 2,000 copies was gone in less than six months and it is now in its fourth or fifth printing.  A copy is found on many BLM range managers' desks in Oregon as it is the first reference used when working on management plans and writing NEPA documents related to juniper.  The book is a thorough summary of the state of our knowledge on juniper woodlands and one of the best examples of technology transfer seen.

Dr. Bill Platt, 2014 Stoddard Award

Bill Platt has devoted his career to the science of fire ecology since the 1970s, when prescribed fire and its effects was little appreciated and hardly studied. Beginning his career studying small prairie mammals, he rapidly grew to appreciate the role of fire in maintaining that ecosystem and habitat.  He then worked as the plant ecologist at Tall Timbers Research Station, "the birthplace of fire ecology", where his initial perception of the importance of fire was reinforced by the Stoddard legacy. In conjunction with the Komareks, Platt was one of the earliest to present evidence that southeastern Coastal Plain forests were historically maintained by lightning initiated fires as mediated by predictable climatic patterns. He had the vision to initiate several long-term, large-scale research projects, including the Wade Tract old-growth longleaf pine forest census and Woodyard Hammock old-growth hardwood forest census, which have continued from 1978 to the present and have generated dozens of papers.

 Platt's emphasis on fire as a natural process played a significant historic role in bridging the gap between fire management and academic ecology.  Platt was influential in considering fire effects from an evolutionary perspective on a timescale that predated the presence of humans in North America. In this way he brought credibility to the science of fire ecology within the halls of academia. In addition to his approximately 100 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, he has mentored an extraordinary number of graduate students and post docs, of which at least 15 are currently professors or professional research scientists in fire ecology and several others are in fire management or policy positions.  Among his other goals he plans to write a book summarizing his broad knowledge of fire ecology though his long career devoted to the that field.

Dr. Ronald H. Wakimoto, 2014 Biswell Award

Dr. Ronald H. Wakimoto is Professor of Forestry at the University of Montana, Missoula.  He received his B.S. in Forestry, M.S. and Ph.D. in Wildland Resource Science from the University of California at Berkeley.  He began his faculty career at the University of California, Berkeley in 1976 and has been at the University of Montana since 1982 teaching and conducting research in wildland fire management.  He teaches academic courses in wildland fire management, fuel management, and fire ecology.

Dr. Wakimoto currently conducts research on the effectiveness of fuel management treatments, smoke quantity and quality from smoldering combustion, and crown fire spread.  Achievements in his career include serving as a technical advisor to the National Fire Policy Review Team following the Yellowstone events, giving testimony on Wildfire Policy, Forests and Forest Health, and the National Fire Plan, and working in Nepal and Bhutan teaching fire ecology and disaster preparedness and fire management strategy development.. In Dr. Wakimoto's fire management capacity building efforts he has given fire training to over 200 Bhutanese foresters and over 120 volunteers who represent every fire-prone dzongkhag in the country.

Lane Green, 2013 Stoddard Award

Lane Green has been Executive Director of Tall Timbers since 1991.  He actively and aggressively promotes public awareness of the benefits of Prescribed Fire through helping form Fire Councils in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and is a founding member of the Scoping Group for the Coalition of Fire Councils.  He has directed and participated in two successful statewide public awareness campaigns in Florida in 1999 and 2004. He has appeared in public service announcement videos in Florida and Southwest Georgia.

Lane also recently served a 7-year term as Governor and FWC Appointee to the Florida Acquisition and Restoration Council that recommends conservation land purchases to the Governor and Cabinet. In addition, he coordinated the 13-Southern States' One Message Many Voices prescribed fire messaging program in 2009/2010 that continues today with an additional 30 states requesting to participate.

Dr. David M. Engle, 2012 Wright Award

Dr. David Engle received his BS in Range Science and his MS in Wildlife Biology from Abilene Christian University and his Pd.D. in Range Science from Colorado State.  Since 1983, he has been on the faculty at Oklahoma State University.  Considered a foremost leader in grassland fire ecology in the United States, he has been a productive researcher and publisher, as well as a highly respected teacher.

He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Tall Timber Research Station and helped develop the Great Plains Fire Science Exchange Consortium.  In addition, he has served as a mentor, friend and colleague to many undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members.  In addition to this award, he has received a number of awards from the Society for Range Management.

Dr. William A. Patterson, 2012 Stoddard Award

Dr. Patterson, Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, began his interest in fire ecology as an undergraduate student at the University of Maine and carried this interest through his graduate work at the University of Minnesota. Bill became acquainted with Ed Komarek at several early Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conferences and visited the Stoddard Fire plots.

This led to his partnership with the National Parks Service and the establishment of his long-term study on the Lombard-Paradise Hollow Fire Management Plots on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Dr. Patterson has many fire-related publications on fire history, fire effects and fire management, and has maintained a strong connection with fire managers in the Northeast.  Dr. Patterson is a true pioneer for fire ecology in the Northeastern United States.

Dr. Jan W. van Wagtendonk, 2012 Biswell Award

Dr. van Wagtendonk grew up in Indiana, where he began his study of forestry at Purdue University.  Summer seasonal work as a smokejumper for the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management convinced him to finish his undergraduate work at Oregon State University, where he received his B.S. in Forest Management in 1963.

After serving as an officer in the U.S. Army with the 101st Airborne Division and as an advisor to the Vietnamese army, he entered graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley.  There Dr. van Wagtendonk obtained his M.S. in Range Management in 1968 and his Ph.D. in Wildland Resource Science with a specialty in fire ecology in 1972.

From 1972 through 1993 he was employed as a research scientist with the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park. From 1994 until he retired in 2008, Dr. van Wagtendonk was employed as a research forester with the U.S. Geological Survey at Yosemite.  His areas of research have included prescriptions for burning in wildland ecosystems, recreational impacts in wilderness, the application of geographic information systems to resources management, and the role of fire in Sierra Nevada ecosystems.  He is featured in this video by the Wildand Fire LLC.  

Dr. Carlton Britton, 2012 Wright Award

During the 2012 Southwest Fire Ecology Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Dr. Carlton Britton was honored with the Wright Award.


Dr. Steve Bunting, 2011 Biswell Award

The 2011 Biswell Award was presented to Dr. Steve Bunting of the College of Natural Resources at the University of Idaho on November 16, 2011 at the Great Basin Fire ecology Conference in Snowbird, Utah. A faculty member at Idaho since 1978, he has supervised over 27 graduate students on a wide variety of research topics, often centered on fire ecology within the Great Basin region. The holder of the UI Heady Professorship of Rangeland Ecology from 1997-2002, he has also been recognized by the Society for Range Management with the Idaho section Outstanding Achievement award (1999) and the W.R. Chapline Research Award in 2000.

In addition, Dr. Bunting was presented the Phi Kappa Phi Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award in 1999 and received the University of Idaho Alumni Award for Faculty Excellence in 1993. Dr. Bunting is the second faculty member from the College of Natural Resources to receive this award, as Dr. Leon Neuenschwander was honored as such in 2007. Others who have received the Biswell award include Dr. Robert Martin, Dr. Stephen Arno, Dr. Bruce Kilgore and Dr. Robert Mutch.

Dr. James K. Agee, 2009 Biswell Award

As one of only three PhD. students of Dr. Biswell's that specialized in fire ecology, Dr. James K. Agee epitomizes the ideals established by his major professor: professionalism, patience, and above all, a sense of humor. Over a career that spanned four decades, Jim taught fire ecology at the University of California, Berkeley, developed fire management programs for the National Park Service, and became the regional expert on fire ecology in the Pacific Northwest while a professor at the University of Washington.

During his tenure at the University of Washington and continuing in his emeritus status, he has chaired or advised well over 50 graduate students, including many of the professional fire ecologists in the Pacific Northwest. He was known as one the best instructors at the University. His knowledge of the fire sciences is vast and he is an excellent lecturer and presenter. Dr. Agee's research in the fire sciences has been extensive and impressive.

Since 2001 Dr. Agee has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator of 17 research grants totaling over 3.7 million US$. Research topics have included: oak fire ecology, estimating crown fire behavior variables, seasonal effects of fire, fire severity, fire and climate change, forest fuel treatment effectiveness, and effects of prescribed fire.

Dr. Bill Boyer, 2009 Stoddard Award

Dr. Bill Boyer (left) being presented the Herbert Stoddard, Sr Lifetime Achievement Award by Dr. Ron Masters of Tall Timbers

Dr. Bill Boyer has been a leader in promoting prescribed fire use in the Southeastern United States to promote longleaf pine management and restoration for decades.

Bill began his work at the Escambia Experimental Forest near Brewton, Alabama in 1955 as a GS-7 with the then Southern Experiment Station. He completed his PhD. From Duke University in Forest Ecology in 1970 and was assigned to the Forest Service's research unit associated with Auburn University in Alabama.

His work continued to be centered at Escambia, in the heart of the residual longleaf pine region of the US. As his and others' research efforts progressed, he soon became a staunch believer in the necessity of frequent fire to manage the longleaf pine ecosystem. During the 1980s, Bill became an advocate for the use of growing season burns at a time that the use of fire was still rejected by many and those that did burn did so only in the dormant season. Throughout his career, he has also advocated for the natural regeneration and the use of fire in the management strategies for longleaf pine.

Dr. Leon Neuenschwander, 2007 Biswell Award

Four Generations of Fire Ecologists. L to R: Micah-John Beierle, Dr. Sandra Rideout-Hanzak, Dr. Brian Oswald, and Dr. Leon Neuenschwander

Dr. Neuenschwander is retired from the faculty in the College of Natural Resources at the University of Idaho. His academic background includes B.S. and M.A. degrees from Cal-State, and his Ph.D. was earned in 1976 at Texas Tech University, where he studied under the supervision of the late Dr. Henry Wright. Joining the faculty at Idaho in 1976, he was promoted to Professor in 1986, and also took on administrative positions such as Acting Department Head of Forest Resources, and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies.

Dr. Neuenschwander's teaching responsibilities included undergraduate courses in Fire Management, a Prescribed Burning Lab, and Fire Ecology, a graduate course in Fire Ecology, and a summer course in Wildland Ecology. His publication record is extremely varied, beginning with his work with Dr. Wright in sagebrush and tobosagrass communities, and then later centering on the ecological role and use of fire in the Northern Rockies.

Dr. Alan J. Long, 2007 Stoddard Award

Dr. Alan Long, is Professor of Forest Operations, Fire, and Forestry Extension at the University of Florida's School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Dr. Long has served the community of fire professionals in the southeastern United States for over 20 years, as an educator, community organization leader, fire use practitioner, and researcher.

Following in Stoddard's footsteps, Dr. Long has perpetuated the use of prescribed burning in fire-adapted forests for restoration and maintenance, and has used prescribed fire to manage southern forests for over 15 years.

His fire-related activities include original research, extension publications and workshops, leadership in professional societies, and hands-on prescribed fire use.

He has responsibilities in managing the 2400 acre Austin Cary Memorial Forest and the University of Florida's Natural Areas Teaching Lab forest, where fire is used in a variety of forest types and conditions for demonstration, restoration, teaching, and research purposes.

Robert W. Mutch, 2006 Biswell Award

Bob Mutch obtained his B.A. degree in Biology and English from Albion College in Michigan in 1956, and received Albion's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004. He received his M.S.F. degree in Fire Science from the University of Montana, 1959. He has been recognized as a national and international leader in fire ecology and fire management for more than forty years. Bob began his career as a smoke jumper and worked for the USFS for 38 years, with his career split between fire research at the Forest Fire Lab in Missoula and fire management operations at both the national forest and regional levels.

During his career he has published over 60 technical and popular articles on wildland fuel flammability, fire behavior, prescribed fire management, wilderness fire management, fire safety, and international disaster assistance. As a researcher, Bob developed an important hypothesis regarding the interaction between wildland fires and ecosystems that was published in Ecology in 1970. Simply stated, he proposed that "fire-dependent plant communities burn more readily than nonfire-dependent communities because natural selection has favored development of characteristics that make them more flammable." This concept extended the commonly accepted fire climate-fuel moisture basis of wildland fire occurrence to consider inherent flammable properties as well. For over thirty years, Bob's hypothesis has been discussed, debated, challenged, and modified, but never repudiated.

Dr. Edward R. Buckner, 2006 Stoddard Award

Dr. Ed Buckner teaching a fire ecology class at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Photo by Dr. Patrick Brose.

Dr. Edward R. Buckner, Professor Emeritus of Forestry, began his career in the wood-processing industry and with the North Carolina Division of Forestry prior to his 41-year career with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In addtion, extended leaves from his academic appointment provided him with experiences in Alaska, Oregon and Montana. Even during the 1970s and 1980s when the role of fire in the environment was not as widely recognized, Dr. Buckner had the foresight to acknowledge fire's value and importance and to teach about it. Many of today's aspiring fire ecologists and foresters have heard him lecture on the evolution of forest types in the South and the role of fire his courses or workshops.

Dr. Buckner was instrumental in bringing attention to Table Mountain Pine and its dependence on fire for regeneration. He advocated for implementation of fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in an effort to halt decline of Table Mountain Pine. His efforts, and those of his students, are widely recognized today. In addition, he had a major hand in organizing the benchmark international meeting hosted by the University of Tennessee in 1991 in Knoxville – Fire and the Environment: Ecological and Cultural Perspectives.

Dr. David H. van Lear, 2005 Stoddard Award

Dr. Van Lear's academic background includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Idaho in 1969. Early in his career Dr. Van Lear worked as a post-doc at the University of Florida and the USFS Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. In 1971 he joined the faculty at Clemson University where he taught and conducted research and outreach for the next 31 years.

During his career Dr. Van Lear received many grants, authored or co-authored over 200 papers, and assumed multiple leadership and service roles. He conducted over twenty years of research on the effects of fire on the southern landscape. His work with Pat Brose on utilizing fire to regenerate southern upland oaks was a significant contribution to the early understanding of the role of fire in restoring and maintaining southern hardwood ecosystems. In addition to this award, Dr. Van Lear has received numerous other awards, including Clemson's prestigious Godley-Shell Award for Excellence in Agricultural Research.

Dr. Stephen F. Arno, 2004 Biswell Award

Dr. Arno received his B.S. in Forestry from Washington State University and earned his Masters and Doctorate in Plant Science from the University of Montana. Dr. Arno served as a Research Plant Ecologist with the USDA Forest Service's Research and Development Branch from 1970 to 1999. The latter two decades of his career were spent as a Fire Ecologist on the Fire Effects Project at the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab.

In the mid-1970′s, Dr. Arno began pioneering research on fire history that resulted in major advances in knowledge of the role of fire in the northern Rocky Mountains. He developed methods, trained managers in dedrochornological techniques, and gained international recognition for his contributions in fire history and the role of fire in vegetation dynamics. During his 29 year career he publishe approximately 60 papers on the ecology, fire history, restoration, and management of northern Rocky Mountain ecosystems. Through his published research and field trips, he gained recognition among both scholars and managers as a great advocate for restoration of fire adapted ecosystems. Dr. Arno's work has influenced many scientists, managers, and practitioners in the field of fire history.

Dr. Robert E. Martin, 2003 Biswell Award

Dr. Scott Stephens, Dr. Bob Martin, and Dr. Jan van Wagtendonk

Dr. Martin earned a B.S. in Physics from Marquette University in 1953, and then a B.S. (1958), M.F. (1959) and Ph.D. (1963) in Forestry from the University of Michigan. Upon completion of his B.S. in Forestry, he joined the USFS Southern Forest Fire Laboratory in Macon, Georgia where he worked from 1958-1963 while simultaneously completing his graduate studies. From 1963 to 1971, Dr. Martin served as an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor of Forestry at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Dale D. Wade, 2003 Stoddard Award

Dr. Brian Oswald, Dale D. Wade, and Dr. Jan van Wagtendonk

Dale Wade earned his B.S. from Rutgers University in 1961 and his M.S. from the University of Montana in 1965. He was a Fire Team Leader in the Disturbance and Management section of the Southern Ecosystems Research Unit, Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service.

From 1965 until 1996 he worked as a Research Forester for the Southern Research Station in Athens Georgia and the Southern Forest Fire Laboratory in Macon, Georgia and Lehigh Acres, Florida. He aso worked as a Forester for the Southern Region and with the Fire and Aviation Staff in Atlanta, Georgia.

During his career, Dale was recognized as a leader in prescribed fire in the Southern U.S. as well as fire management and fire at the urban-wildland interface. In the last 15 years Dale was principal investigator or co-PI for more than 24 grants totaling over 20 million dollars.

He authored or co-authored over 100 fire related publications, including the standard on prescribed fire in the South. Much of his research took place in South Carolina. In addition to the Stoddard Award from AFE, Dale has received the National "Excellence in Prescribed Fire" award; he is the Southeastern Station recipient of the Chief's Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer; he is a Registered Forester, Georgia and Certified Burner in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina; and he has received several SAF awards.

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