Meet the WFM RD&A Staff
The WFM RD&A is comprised of 19 Fire Application Specialists, Fire Management Specialists, Data Management Specialists, and a physical scientist, that provide a tangible link between fire management and research. The WFMRD&A staff is consists of several virtual positions located in CO, FL, ID, MN, MT, NM, OR, and SC, with program leadership stationed at NIFC in Boise ID and represents the five federal land management agencies: the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
With personal interests as diverse as their fire management skill sets, employees have a combined 300+ years of fire management experience and have represented each of the federal agencies and geographic areas in their collective careers.
Tim Sexton - Program Manager
Tim is currently the Program Manager for the Wildland Fire Research Development & Applications Program.His responsibilities include management of the Wildland Fire Decision Support System as well as facilitating technology transfer of new science associated with wildland fire to the field. He previously served as a Type I Incident Commander on Great Basin IMT 1 and as a Type II IC on Rocky Mountain IMT #2. He remains active in large fire management, serving on Area Command and the Command and General Staff of Type I IMTs. Tim has a Bachelor's Degree in History from Boise State University and a Master's Degree in Fire Ecology from Oregon State University. Tim started his fire career as an engine and fuels crewmember on the Shasta-Trinity NF at Weaverville Ranger District.
His work experience includes:
- Suppression and fuels on the Gifford Pinchot and Umpqua National Forests
- Fire Operations Specialist for BLM at the National Interagency Fire Center
- Hotshot superintendent at Redmond, Oregon (Deschutes NF)
- District Fire Management Officer for 11 years on the Winema National Forest
- Deputy Regional Fire Management Officer for the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service in Denver, CO
- National Fire Ecologist for the National Park Service
- Fire Use Program Manager for the US Forest Service
- District Ranger, LaCroix RD, Superior National Forest
In his free time Tim enjoys snow skiing, canoeing, woodworking, photography, fishing, and hunting.
Mark Hale - Deputy Program Manager
Grand Rapids, MN
Mark is “Buckeye” born and raised in Ohio now living in the Northwood’s of Minnesota. He worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and graduated from Hocking Technical College in 1986 with an A.S. in Recreation and Wildlife and set his sights on heading west. His Forest Service career started in Priest lake Idaho in 1987 where he worked in Recreation, Timber and Silviculture while going to School at the University of Idaho. Mark’s degree at the U of I was in Fisheries but finding fisheries jobs was difficult, so in 1991 he took a job on the Wyoming Hotshot crew and the rest is history. He received a B. S. in Fisheries Management from the University of Idaho in 1992 and continued working on the Wyoming and St. Joe Hotshot crews for 5 years. During his Forest Service career Mark has experienced working in research at the Intermountain Research Station in Moscow, ID, and in three Regions, on 8 National Forests including the Idaho Panhandle, Bighorn, Medicine Bow, Nebraska, Black Hills, Custer, Chippewa and Superior. Mark has worked in fire in many aspects holding titles such as Engine Foreman, Hotshot Squad Boss, Assistant Station Manager, Prevention Tech, Fuels Specialist, Forest Fire Planner and Forest Aviation Officer. He has acted as Forest AFMO, Forest FMO and Regional Fire Operations. In his spare time, Mark enjoys fishing, ice fishing/spearing, hunting, hiking, biking, ice skating, canoeing and cross country skiing. Future goals and challenges include finishing renovations on his 100+ year house which seems never-ending, and possibly positions/details to DC in Fire Leadership positions, and rounding out his career with experience as Line Officer.
Leti Shindelar - Program Support Assistant
Born and raised in Arizona, I have worked in administrative support in Regions 3, 4 and 5. I've enjoyed about 20 years as a Support Dispatcher and am looking forward to spending the foreseeable future with this group.
Tami Parkinson - Lead Fire Application Specialist
Tami is a Lead-Fire Application Specialist working in McCall, Idaho. She is an Idaho native, receiving her Bachelors and Masters Degrees from the University of Idaho through the College of Forestry. She has worked primarily for the Forest Service with a short assignment to the BLM, work experience includes: district fuels specialist (FS), Fire Use Specialist (BLM), and Forest AFMO. Tami is currently the chair of the NWCG Fire Behavior Subcommittee, the subcommittee is responsible for business stewardship of wildland fire behavior assessment, including standards, and supporting resources for training, science and technology, and decision support applications of wildland fire behavior. She provides incident support as an FBAN and is working towards a SOPL qualification. Tami is an avid outdoor enthusiast spending as much time as she can in the outdoors biking, hiking, riding her mules, fishing and most of all chasing her son around
Morgan Pence - Lead Fire Application Specialist
Morgan earned her B.S. in Ecology and Conservation Biology and her Masters in Natural Resources from the University of Idaho. She joined the Forest Service as a seasonal firefighter in 2000 on the Salmon-Challis N.F. She has worked on helitack, engines, and handcrews. She accepted a permanent position on the Plumas N.F. in fire ecology in 2003. In 2005 she joined the National Interagency Fuels Technology Team (NIFTT) doing a variety of duties but mainly helping coordinate training courses on fuels/fire GIS tools. She joined the Wildland Fire Management RD&A team in the fall of 2009 and works in support of fire decisions and documentation with fire behavior and economic assessment tools.
Tonja Opperman - Lead Fire Application Specialist
Tonja Opperman is a Lead Fire Applications Specialist in Gardiner, Montana. Tonja's primary areas of focus include WFDSS Decision Support, helping managers write clear objectives during wildland fires, writing Help content for the WFDSS site, IFTDSS testing & development, conducting a monthly seminar series for the WFM RD&A staff, and assisting on fires as a Long Term Analyst (LTAN).
Previous work experience has taken her to Grand Canyon NP, Yellowstone NP, and the Bitterroot National Forest as a Fire Ecologist. She worked in New Zealand for a year as a fire behavior scientist and has had recent opportunities to travel to Zambia with International Programs to teach fire monitoring. Tonja is the co-lead instructor for S-495: Geospatial Fire Analysis, Interpretation, and Application, a course taught primarily for LTANs, and has been an LTAN since 2007. Tonja has a B.S. in Forestry from Michigan Tech and a Master's of Forest Science from Yale University.
Sam Amato - Fire Application Specialist
Fort Collins, CO
Sam Amato began his career with Rocky Mountain National Park as a seasonal firefighter, then moving on the Gila National Forest, Wilderness District as an Assistant Suppression Foreman. After Completing a Masters Degree in Fire Ecology at Colorado State University, Sam worked as a Fire Application Specialist for the Forest Service Southwest Regional Office. Sam began working with the Wildland Fire Decision Support System in 2007, and helped with the initial implementation of WFDSS for the Southwest Region of the Forest Service. In late 2009 Sam began working for WFM RD&A as a Fire Application Specialist. Currently Sam works in several focus areas of the WFM RD&A, including Fuels, Technology Transfer, and Decision Support. Sam is qualified as an; ENGB, FIRB, FEMO and is a LTAN. During fire season the majority of Sam's time is spent in remote and onsite wildland fire support. In his off time Sam enjoys spending time with his children, snowboarding, hiking, bouldering, biking, hunting, fishing, and gardening.
Erin Noonan - Technology Transfer Specialist
Erin Noonan-Wright graduated with a bachelor of science in Forestry from UC Berkeley. After working seasonally cruising timber for Sierra Pacific Industries and as a ski instructor at Alpine Meadows, Lake Tahoe, she returned to graduate school at the University of Nevada Reno and received a master of science in Environmental Resource Sciences with a focus on spatial fire modeling. She worked for Point Reyes National Seashore as a Fire/GIS specialist and the USFS Adaptive Management Services Enterprise Team (AMSET) analyzing spatial fire and fuels data for 4 years. In 2006, she left the federal government and worked as a consultant with Systems for Environmental Management (SEM) in conjunction with the Fire Science Lab in Missoula, MT and fought fire for a few years on hotshot crews and a wildland fire use module. In 2009, she accepted a position as an analyst with the WFM RDA; and in 2019, accepted a position as a Fire Management Specialist working on the next version of the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS). She is currently in the last stages of obtaining her Ph.D from the University of Montana focusing her research on characterizations of risk using data stored in WFDSS. In her free time, she can be seen running on trails around Missoula or running after her two daughters down the street.
Kim Ernstrom - Lead Fire Application Specialist
Kim began her fire career on the Bridger-Teton NF as a seasonal in 1993 after completing a bachelor’s degree in Geography and Geology. She has worked in fire management in eight different states throughout her career. Positions with the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nature Conservancy have provided a broad perspective on fire management. Titles such as Helicopter Crewmember, Hotshot Foreman, Prescribed Fire Specialist, Prescribed Fire Training Center Coordinator, Fire Management Officer and Fire Application Specialist round out her resume. While enjoying summers as a fire fighter Kim received her Masters Degree in Earth Science at Montana State University in 1999 completing a thesis on the “Fire effects of the 1988 fires on headwater stream systems in Yellowstone National Park”. Kim’s fire management interests with the Wildland Fire Management RD&A include advanced fire behavior applications, long term fire planning, decision support and fuels management.
In 2011, she decided to try a new activity and went to the YMCA in the winter to learn how to roll a kayak. Ever since that day at the pool, all of her waking and non-working moments are spent on the river. The Payette River, outside of Boise, is one of Kim’s favorite places and if you ever find that your call goes directly to voicemail chances are she’s floatin’ down the river.
Caroline Noble - Lead Fire Application Specialist
Caroline began her federal career in 1984 as a seasonal employee in northern Idaho doing timber and silviculture work and eventually ending up burning and fighting fire with the St. Joe hotshots from 1986 to 1990. In 1990 the inexplicable lure of a permanent job took Caroline to a Fuels specialist position on the Kootenai National Forest in northwest Montana. In 1993 she made the big switch to the National Park Service becoming Prescribed Fire Specialist in Yosemite conducting burns and managing Wilderness fires. In 1997 she moved back to Montana as assistant FMO for Glacier Park where she managed the park fire and aviation programs. Desire to be closer to family pulled Caroline out of the mountains to a regional Fire Ecologist position with the Park Service based out of Tall Timbers Research Station in FL. She helped to manage regional fuels, monitoring, BAER, and research programs throughout the Southeast region for 14 years. Caroline is a qualified LTAN and has served as an instructor for numerous fire behavior, monitoring, and fire modelling courses. Her husband Joe is the GIS specialist for Tall Timbers Research Station and they have twins who have been using drip torches since they were 4. Caroline enjoys soccer and running and has recently tried short distance triathlons. She attended Sterling College in northern Vermont and Cornell University in New York where she received her B.S. in natural resources management in 1988. She also received an M.S. in Forestry from the University of Idaho in 1991.
Mitch Burgard - Fire Technology Transfer Specialist
Mitch Burgard is a Fire Technology Specialist and works out of Kalispell, Montana where he was raised and graduated high school. Mitch attended Colorado State University in 1988 and graduated with a B.S. degree in 1992. Mitch spent his young twenties working summers seasonally with helitack, fuels, hand and engine crews and as a winter resource management volunteer at Flathead and Bridger-Teton National Forests and Grand Teton, Saguaro and Mesa Verde National Parks. He was volunteering for the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction in 1995 when he heard an exciting rumor about the fledgling 'National Park Service Prescribed Fire Support Crews'. Mitch was hired onto, and eventually led, the Yellowstone and Bandelier Modules for six years and he still retains a very strong passion for Resource Benefit Fires. In 2001, to get a break from a life on the road and be closer to his family, Mitch returned home to Glacier National Park where he worked as a Prescribed Fire, Fire Use and Fuels Specialist for 9 years. He joined the WFM RD&A in late 2009 where he is devoted to assisting the field with incorporating science and technology in decision making. Mitch enjoys skiing, nordic ice skating, playing mandolin, biking, reading and spending time on rivers in his off time.
Reggie Goolsby - Fire Technology Transfer Specialist
Reggie Goolsby joined the Forest Service in 2010. Reggie worked at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal as a journalist for a New York Times Company newspaper before receiving his Masters Degree in Forestry Resource Management from Clemson University. Reggie is also a programmer and a database manager. He has independently developed web based modeling applications and mobile device apps to assist with fire effects monitoring and wildland fire and fuels planning. Reggie enjoys whitewater kayaking, Furman and Clemson football. Reggie left the Francis Marion & Sumter National forest with the mission to return usable effective user friendly fire applications to the people who deserve it the most, the fire technicians.
Diane Rau - Fire Technology Transfer Specialist
Diane began her fire career on a hotshot crew while a student at the University of Montana. She graduated with a degree in Forest Resource Management in 2000, secured permanent employment on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF and gained additional experience working with engines, hand crews, fuels, fire prevention and fire education. She actively sought experience during the off season and developed skills and interests in related areas such as GIS and data management. In 2004, she moved to New Mexico as the Fire and Fuels GIS Specialist for the Cibola NF where she supported the fire GIS program and managed fuels data and crews. She also met her husband in a tiny town called Magdalena. He swept her off her feet and in 2007, they got married and moved to the Payette NF where she filled the role of Forest Fire Planner. She assisted with the management of multiple, complex incidents as well as numerous incident and area command teams, and helped implement new policy and WFDSS. She jumped at the chance to become a Fire Technology Transfer Specialist for the WFM RD&A in 2009 and has been employed there ever since. She is actively involved with WFDSS-related training, development and implementation. She is an S495 cadre member, a qualified LTAN and a happy and very tired mother to her brood of small children; Cassidy and the twins Dylan and Danika.
Bre Schueller - Fire Technology Transfer Specialist
Grand Marais, MN
Bre is a Fire Technology Transfer Specialist working out of Grand Marais, Minnesota. Her primary area of focus working for the WFM RD&A is leading the development and tech transfer of the Interagency Fuels Treatment Decision Support System (IFTDSS). She also continues to develop skills assisting on wildfires as a Long Term Analyst (LTAN). Bre started her career with the Forest Service in 1997 and worked in a variety of seasonal wildland fire positions on the Kaibab, Willamette, and Superior National Forests. She accepted a permanent position on the Superior National Forest in 2002 and spent about 14 years there working in fuels management. Bre worked as a Fuels Technician for several years before accepting the Zone Fire Management Specialist position in 2012. She has detailed into the Regional Fuels Specialist position for Region 9 and worked as a Fire Management Specialist for the WFM RD&A in a short term detail in 2015 before joining the staff permanently in 2016. She received her B.S. in Natural Resource Management from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin and her Masters in Natural Resource Management with certificates in Restoration Ecology and Fire Ecology, Management, and Technology from the University of Idaho. Outside of work, Bre enjoys spending time with her husband and two young daughters cross country skiing, boating, swimming, running, hiking, and reading.
Ned Nikolov - Air Resources Specialist (Rocky Mountain Center Manager)
Fort Collins, CO
Ned Nikolov leads the Rocky Mountain Center (RMC) for Fire-Weather Intelligence, an integral part of the WFM RD&A Program. Ned has a Bachelor and Master's Degrees in Forestry and Forest Ecology from the Forestry University in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a Ph.D. in Forest Ecology and Ecosystem Modeling from the Colorado State University in Fort Collins CO. He started his career as a research ecologist in Europe (Bulgaria and Austria). He came to USA in 1991 as a Visiting Scientist on invitation by the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins CO. After obtaining his Ph.D. in 1997, Ned took a 4-year postdoc research position at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge TN. He returned to Colorado in 2000 to manage an USGS air-quality program in Wyoming. Since 2001, Ned has been continuously involved with the development of RMC. Ned has research experience and expertise in forest ecosystem modeling, forest growth and productivity, energy and trace gas exchange between forest ecosystems and the atmosphere, remote sensing of vegetation parameters such as canopy leaf area index, air quality, meso-scale weather dynamics, fire-weather forecasting and climate processes.
Andrew Bailey - Data Manager
Andrew is Data Manager for the WFM RD&A, and works at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, ID. His interest is in responding to the data acquisition, coordination, and analysis needs of the interagency wildland fire community, including oversight of the data sets used in the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) and Interagency Fuel Treatment Decision Support System (IFTDSS). Andrew previously served as GIS Coordination Forester for the North Carolina Forest Service, worked in fuels and fire research and planning with Alion Science and Technology, developed landscape and habitat models with the Southeast Gap Analysis Project, and worked as a laboratory and field technician with the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station. He has a Master of Science degree in Forestry and a Bachelors of Science degree in Forest Management with a minor in computer science from North Carolina State University. When he's not working on wildland fires or moving bytes, Andrew enjoys photography, running, mountain biking, and home brewing. Andrew and his young family love exploring Idaho together.
Ben Butler - WFDSS GIS Specialist
Ben Butler is the WFDSS GIS Specialist and works out of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, ID. Originally from the Allegheny Mountains of North central Pennsylvania he developed a passion for the outdoors at a young age. Ben attended the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1999 and earned a bachelors degree in Environmental Geography/GIS in 2003. During the summer and fall of 2002 an internship with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) piqued his interest in wildland fire management. Based out of Pocatello Idaho he spent the summer conducting home assessments in the wildland-urban-interface and encouraged homeowners to practice Firewise principles to help protect their homes from wildland fire. After graduation in 2003 Ben found himself back with the SCA as a full-time technical program manager for the LANDFIRE and FIREMON programs where he spent 5 years managing a national fire effects data collection effort. His work with the SCA lead him to pursue a graduate degree with an emphasis on fire ecology and in 2009 Ben graduated from the University of Idaho with a Master of Natural Resource degree and a graduate level fire ecology certificate. Just before graduation Ben joined the WFM RD&A team as the WFDSS GIS Specialist and has been enjoying both the team that he works with and the work he completes.
Outside of work Ben loves spending time with his wife and son and enjoys woodworking, camping, skiing, cooking and fly-fishing the beautiful waters of the great state of Idaho.
Nicole Vaillant - Fire Application Specialist
Nicole began a long term detail with the WFM RD&A at the end of 2017 after doing a short term detail earlier in the year. She is as a subject matter expert for fire behavior modeling and quantitative risk assessments supporting the development of the Interagency Fuels Treatment Decision Support System (IFTDSS). Nicole first worked with the Forest Service as a seasonal employee working as a wildland firefighter, botanist, and plot-shot in northern California. Through the student career employment program Nicole got a permanent position in 2004 as a fire ecologist with the USFS Adaptive Management Services Enterprise Team (AMSET). After 8 years with AMSET she became a fire ecologist with the USFS Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center (WWETAC) where her research emphasis was on characterizing fire behavior at multiple scales, fuel treatment effectiveness, and wildfire risk, as well as technology transfer and supporting software development of fuel management tools. She received her B.S. in Evolution and Ecology from the University of California, Davis and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California, Berkeley. Outside of work, Nicole enjoys spending time outdoors, running, biking, swimming, hiking, camping, snow sports and traveling with her husband.