Amanda Stasiewicz is probably the only incoming faculty member in the College of Social Sciences who has been trained to fight a wildfire.
She’s never had the opportunity to stare down a raging forest fire, but Stasiewicz has spent her career in academia exploring wildfire management and how various stakeholders cooperate — or don’t — to mitigate fire danger and battle blazes when they spark.
She calls it the “human dimensions of wildfire adaptation, or how communities and societies deal with wildfire risk and wildfire management.”
Stasiewicz joined the Environmental Studies Department as an assistant professor after completing her master’s degree and Ph.D. in natural resources at the University of Idaho.
Stasiewicz grew up on Long Island surrounded by water and studied environmental science at Siena College, a small liberal arts college in upstate New York.
She interned at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in marine science, studying the risks to whales posed by offshore wave energy converters. In another internship at Brookhaven National Laboratory, she tracked turtles and mist-netted bats. And her study abroad component took her to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. “I spent a lot of time at the ocean growing up, and a lot of my interest in the environment was through studying marine biology and water quality issues,” Stasiewicz says.
After falling in love with the western landscape, Stasiewicz chose Idaho for graduate studies and drifted into fire management issues after studying the impacts of cheatgrass, an invasive annual grass in the Intermountain West, and seeing how dramatically it fed larger wildfires and taxed the capacity of fire management systems.
Through her work with scientists and communities around endangered species and marine biology, Stasiewicz realized that she was mostly interested in how environmental issues affect communities. “I decided that I really wanted to study people,” she says, “and somehow I ended up in fire.”