Staff

The PLPG is lucky to have several wonderful program leaders, research associates, and postdoctoral scholars conducting research, mentoring students, and contributing to our research group, department, and college.

Chad Kooistra, PhD Forest Ecosystems and Society, PLPG Wildfire Management Research Program Lead

Google Scholar profile and CV

Growing up in Michigan enjoying the public forests and lakeshores nearby inspired me to earn a B.S. degree at CSU in Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism. I applied my degree for the next few years working for NGOs and state and federal land management agencies on many different habitat restoration, fire mitigation, social science, and trail projects on public lands across Colorado and Nevada.

I earned my M.S. degree at the University of Idaho studying people’s attitudes about forest management after pine beetle outbreaks in Grand County, CO. My Ph.D. research at Oregon State University investigated people’s perceptions of post-wildfire landscape recovery and the implications for forest and wildfire management. My post-doc work at Oregon State University, University of Oregon, and Great Basin Institute focused on human dimensions of various natural resource issues, including wildfire management, collaborative land management, recreation management on public lands, and residents’ attitudes about tourism.

I am excited to be back at CSU and working with Dr. Courtney Schultz’ Public Lands Policy Group as the Wildfire Management Research Program Lead! We are using social science to research wildfire risk management tools, collaboration and shared stewardship, and other issues and policies being implemented by land managers and communities across the U.S.

I joined the PLPG in fall 2019 as a postdoctoral researcher working on an NSF Macrosystems Biology project, where we are investigating the relative influence of management on U.S. forests at regional to continental scales. I am interviewing forest experts throughout the U.S. to understand past, current, and potential future drivers of forest management, and working with modelers to incorporate this information into our understanding of the ecosystem structure, composition, and function of future U.S. forests.

I completed my PhD in early 2019 in the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona, where my dissertation was entitled, “Incentives, Livelihoods, and Forest Ecology: Payments for Ecosystem Services in Guatemala’s Western Highlands.” Using a mixed methods approach of interviews, participant observation, and forest carbon plots, I investigated how national forestry incentives in Guatemala shift governance, management practices, access to resources and forest carbon storage potential. My overarching research interests combine the fields of political ecology, environmental governance, ecosystem service science, critical physical geography, and natural resource management.  Before graduate school, I completed a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice University in Houston and worked as a biological technician for several public land agencies in New Mexico and California.

Please see my website for more information, including my C.V., publications, and approach to teaching: https://nikirvh.wixsite.com/nikivonhedemann

Niki vonHedemann, PhD Geography and Development, NSF Post-Doctoral Scholar

Michelle Ferguson, MS Environmental Sciences and Policy, PLPG Research Associate

Michelle completed her Masters in Environmental Sciences and Policy at Northern Arizona University. Her graduate research explored how the Forest Service is navigating resilience directives in the 2012 Planning Rule. Her work focused on management implications of this policy in Southwestern forests. After graduation she was a social scientist for the Landscape Conservation Initiative in Flagstaff before starting an internship traveling with the USFWS. Michelle’s research is motivated by the intersection of science and policy.

Her current projects focus on federal fire management with an emphasis on improving decision-making around fuels and fire management, and cross-boundary and partnership efforts associated with US forestlands. Michelle is happy to return to CSU as an alumna who earned a B.S. in Natural Resources Management and minors in English and Global Environmental Sustainability. She is originally from Colorado and enjoys camping, cooking, yoga, and hiking in the Rocky Mountains.