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.
I became a part of the PLPG in the spring of 2022 as a postdoctoral research associate affiliated with the Climate Adaptation Partnership (CAP) at CSU. The CAP is an exciting and relatively new venture at CSU that is centered on cultivating transdisciplinary collaboration among campus faculty to tackle the pressing climate related challenges facing Colorado, the nation, and the world in the 21st Century.
I completed my doctorate in the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State University in late 2021. My research was centered in water policy and governance, with particular focus on the human dimensions and water security implications of water reallocation policy in the Intermountain West. While my research centered on specific attributes of water reallocation, my interests include water security at multiple institutional and physical scales, understanding human behavior in water and land use, and the intersection of
water and land management policies in the western states. My doctorate is a deviation in my formal academic training, as I earned my BS (Iowa State University, Go Cyclones!) and MS (Northern Illinois University) in geology and an MSc in hydrology at the Colorado School of Mines.
Prior to my doctoral program at USU, I worked as a hydrogeologist in the private and public sectors for over 15 years in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. I was blessed to have worked on some amazing projects that incorporated cutting edge groundwater modeling and geophysical tools and strategies. Yet all the while during this work I knew that I eventually wanted to steer my career in the direction of natural resources policy. I’m thrilled to be part of the PLPG and CAP and the amazing research community at CSU!
I joined the PLPG in the summer of 2019 as a research associate and currently lead our forest and wildfire research work. My interests lie at the intersection of humans and the environment, particularly boundary-spanning, environmental policy, and science communication in the field of forest management. My current projects with PLPG 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 U.S. forestlands.
Growing up in Colorado savoring the outdoors, I pursued a B.S. in Natural Resources Management at Colorado State University and am happy to return as a proud alumna! Following my interest in forest policy, I later completed my M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Policy at Northern Arizona University. My graduate
research explored how national forests in the southwest incorporated landscape resilience under the 2012 Planning Rule and the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. After completing my Master’s program at NAU, I worked as a social scientist for the Landscape Conservation Initiative focusing on the application of resilience in national forests. I also interned with U.S. Fish and Wildlife conducting visitor use surveys by traveling to several national wildlife refuges across the nation before joining PLPG.
I was brought on to the Public Lands Policy Group as a research associate in the winter of 2022 to investigate post-fire management priorities of Tribes in the Western United States. This research is concerned with informing post-fire management and policy so that it is more responsive to Tribal priorities.
In 2022 I received my PhD in Public Communication and Technology from the Department of Journalism and Media Communication at Colorado State University. My research interests center on the communication practices of land management professionals and how these practices inform and are informed by institutional policy.
In the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020, I traveled to the Southwest to conduct interviews with land managers from the
Tribes and Pueblos of the region as well as Forest Service Tribal Liaisons. This research was brought about through a partnership between Colorado State University and Regions 2 and 3 of the Forest Service. The overall aim of this research was to explore the collaborative and communication dynamics that exist between the Tribes and Pueblos of the Southwest and the Forest Service.
When I’m not working or hanging out with friends and family, I’m exploring the lakes and mountains that surround our home in Seward, Alaska.
I joined the Public Lands Policy Group at the start of 2023 as a research associate focused on climate change adaptation. My work centers on adaptation actions, policy options, barriers, learnings, and more to enhance societal and environmental resilience. Within the PLPG, I research adaptation in the context of public lands and forest management and support the Climate Adaptation Partnership (CAP), as well as broader climate change initiatives and programming at CSU.
Before coming to CSU, I was a consultant within the Adaptation Division at UN Climate Change, investigating climate communication efforts and developing technical and information papers about adaptation at the global and national levels. In 2019, I received my M.S. in Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation from Lund University’s Faculty of Engineering. My B.A. is in International Studies, with a focus
on global environmental politics and development, from American University’s School of International Service.
My aim is to connect research, policy, and communications to explore, facilitate the continual learning of, and implement best practices of adaptation to transform humanity’s relationship with nature and improve societal and environmental resilience across different spatial scales. I’m excited to learn from my colleagues at CSU and join the research community to advance actionable climate adaptation science.
Former Staff Members
I began working with PLPG in the summer of 2023. I currently focus on Shared Stewardship and its integration with the recent Wildfire Crisis Strategy. I am particularly interested in the translation of science to policy and how that policy is effectively and equitably implemented on the ground, especially when it comes to forest management and wildfire.
I grew up in Southern Oregon and am well (and perhaps over) acquainted with wildfire. After finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Studies at Yale University, I spent several years working in the Oregon State Legislature. I focused primarily on forestry, wildfire, and environmental policy work. From there, I began pursuing dual Master’s Degrees in Forestry and Environmental Management at Duke University with a concentration in Environmental Economics and Policy. While at Duke, I have researched and written papers on fuel breaks and
barriers to forest restoration in North Carolina. I also spent a summer working for the U.S. Forest Service and completed an assistantship with the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability researching options for increasing forest carbon capture and sequestration.
When I’m not in the office, I am often hiking, biking, baking, or writing screenplays.
After graduating with my B.S. in Forestry from Southern Illinois University in 2018, I joined the Public Lands Policy Group to pursue my M.S. in Forest Sciences. My master’s research examined a prescribed fire outreach program in Northern Colorado. graduated in 2020, and shortly thereafter I returned to CSU to continue working with the PLPG as a Research Associate. I primarily worked on a project evaluating Fuel Treatment Effectiveness from an operations perspective. In 2022, I accepted a job with CSU’s Center for Collaborative Conservation as the Coordinator of the Colorado Forest Collaboratives Network. The Network’s mission is to benefit and support place-based forest collaboratives in Colorado by connecting them to information, resources, and each other, and by telling their stories to make their value and needs understood.
Katie McGrath Novak
M.S. Forest Sciences
PLPG Research Associate
I also serve on the Colorado Forest Health Council representing forest collaboratives at a state policy level. I am happy that my new role allows me to be just a staircase away from my friends at the PLPG!
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.
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 attended high school in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. While living in Germany, I was inspired by the progressive environmental regulation in the county. I knew I wanted to peruse an education that would support this spirit of conservation and policy. I moved to Colorado in 2016 to start my undergraduate degree in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. As a student, I interned at Grand Teton National Park as a Social Scientist and conducted a human-wildlife interaction study at the park’s “Bear Jams” (traffic jams caused by visitors watching grizzly bears). This experience opened my eyes to the value and opportunity in public land management In 2018, I started working with Courtney on my undergraduate honors thesis and had the opportunity to engage in both American and European policy. My thesis, entitled “Carbon Indicators: A Comparative Analysis of the Californian and European Union Carbon Scheme” reviewed the development and implementation of Carbon Markets.
After finishing my thesis, I stayed with PLPG assisting in a variety of research projects until I graduated in December 2019. I had the opportunity to build on my thesis and further study carbon offsets and sequestration management. I joined the lab full-time in January 2020 and now research Forest Service policy and strategies, including Shared Stewardship and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. I am primarily interested in cross-boundary landscape management and engaging local communities.
BS – Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
PLPG Research Associate