Fire on the Fringe

Social-ecological dynamics at the wildland-urban interface


Funding Agency

National Science Foundation

Associated Program

National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center

Award Year


Principal Investigators

Kenneth Wallen, Texas A&M University

Ellen Esch, University of California-San Diego

Research Team

Patrick Bitterman, University of Iowa

Michael Levy, University of California, Davis

Katie Lyon, Colorado State University

Michael Saha, University of Virginia

Project Overview

The social and ecological drivers of human–fire relationships have shifted in the past century. Our Graduate Pursuit team will utilize existing data sets to understand these shifting dynamics of the human–fire relationship within the San Diego–Cleveland National Forest wildland–urban interface (SDCNF WUI). We propose to address two overarching research questions:

  1. What are the likely trajectories of urban development, vegetation community composition, and wildfire dynamics in the San Diego–Cleveland National Forest wildland–urban interface SDCNF WUI in relation to homeowner firewise behavior and displacement of native vegetation?

  2. Based on our understanding of these trajectories and relationships, how can fire management and urban planning mitigate risk to humans, property, and native vegetation?


Our study will utilize stochastic cellular automata to model urbanization, environmental change, and sociological behavior to gain better understanding of how actual and perceived fire risk, spatial urbanization patterns, and human-induced replacement of native chaparral with fire-prone exotic grasses interact and feed back into the socio-ecological dynamics of the SDCNF WUI. Results of our synthesis will be pertinent and actionable to local homeowners, fire management officials, land management agencies, and urban planners interested in creating a more fire-resilient future for cities within Southern California and other fire-prone areas throughout the U.S.

SESYNC Project Page


Human Dimensions
Conservation  |  Natural Resources
People  |  Behavior  |  Action

© 2020 by Kenneth E. Wallen