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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Alaska Fire Management: Science Camp Highlights Wildland Fire as an Agent of Change

Region 0, October 5, 2012
Fire Management Officer Kristi Bulock shows students a duff plug. She explains how fire managers measure moisture in the boreal floor to determine fire danger and behavior.
Fire Management Officer Kristi Bulock shows students a duff plug. She explains how fire managers measure moisture in the boreal floor to determine fire danger and behavior. - Photo Credit: n/a
Bulock shows the students how to use a duff moisure meter.
Bulock shows the students how to use a duff moisure meter. - Photo Credit: n/a

Students at the Round Mountain Outdoor Science Camp found themselves connecting with nature in ways big and small. There were the typical camp activities—fishing, archery, kayaking and hiking. There were science-based discussions. And there were opportunities for quiet observation of the natural world around them.
“All provided opportunities to teach the students about the role of fire in the boreal forest,” said Fire Management Officer Kristi Bulock.
The Round Mountain Outdoor Science Camp is hosted by the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge and the Iditarod Area School District. Students from four Interior Alaska villages participated in the camp during late July, earning high school credit for the lessons they learned.
For Bulock, teaching the students about wildland fire fit well with the theme of this year’s camp: “The Boreal Forest.” The students learned about the critical role that fire plays as an agent of change in maintaining the boreal forest. They participated in discussions about fire ecology and forest succession and then worked in groups for some hands-on lessons in basic wildland fire behavior.
Among the activities, the students examined cross sections of trees and evaluated them for fire scars and growth patterns. They also learned how to operate belt weather kits used by fire crews. The kits are used to monitor temperature and humidity, which affect fire behavior. The students then learned how to measure slope and tree height with an inclinometer and about how topography and vegetation can affect the spread of a wildland fire.
Bulock showed the students how to measure moisture in the duff layers of the boreal forest and explained how this fuel moisture affects the ignition, control, and extinguishment of fire. Hikes into and out of the camp provided a chance to survey the landscape to learn about how a forest regenerates in stages.
Bulock wrapped up with a discussion of how Alaska Managers use this applied science to make decisions on how to manage wildland fires. She also explained the prepositioning of fire-fighting resources based on fire danger, and discussed careers in wildland firefighting.
“Teaching the students about wildland fire as an agent of change for the boreal forest when they’re in the boreal forest made the lessons so much more real to them,” Bulock said.

Contact Info: Maureen Clark, (907) 786-3469, Maureen_Clark@fws.gov