Photo of Serra J. Hoagland

Serra J. Hoagland

Liaison Officer (Biologist)
5775 Highway 10 West
Missoula, MT 59808-9361
Phone: 406-275-4067

Current Research

Western forests have departed from historical conditions due to decades of fire suppression, timber harvesting, and livestock grazing practices. Current forest conditions and high fuel levels can lead to more frequent and more severe wildfires. Late-successional forests that provide habitat for Mexican spotted owls (Strix occidentalis lucida) are susceptible to such wildfires but evolved under lower severity wildfire regimes. A significant amount of Mexican spotted owl nesting and roosting habitat has been lost throughout the southwest due to recent high-intensity, stand replacing wildfires. Future climate predictions identify longer fire seasons, prolonged drought and fire regimes that are mediated by temperature, which suggest that owl habitat is at risk as temperatures continue to increase. The most recent revision of the Mexican Spotted Owl Recovery Plan recommends strategically placed forest treatments and restoration projects to increase forest resiliency and minimize threats to the owl, yet empirical evidence about Mexican spotted owl's response to forest treatments is limited. This project worked with the Mescalero Apache tribe and the Sacramento and Smokey Bear Ranger Districts of the Lincoln National Forest in south-central New Mexico. The Lincoln National Forest borders the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation and has a significant population of Mexican spotted owls. The Sacramento and Smokey Bear Ranger Districts have conducted very few forest treatments in owl habitat since the listing of the species, whereas the tribe has conducted various sustainable yield, uneven aged forest management practices in owl habitat to meet interdisciplinary goals of the tribe. By applying forest and owl data this project will be the first attempt to use empirical information to understand the effects of modest forest treatments on Mexican spotted owls. This project strives to 1) incorporate tribal information to assess the range of habitat conditions that Mexican spotted owls may occupy; 2) protect Mexican spotted owls and their habitat from catastrophic wildfires by providing information about the effects of forest treatment on Mexican spotted owls and 3) educate and inform forest practitioners about the applicability of traditional ecological knowledge in natural resource management. These results may significantly influence southwestern forest management as well as future Mexican Spotted Owl Recovery Plans.

Research Interests

Tribal Forestry and Forest Management

Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Wildlife Conservation

Habitat Connectivity

Habitat Use

Landscape Ecology

Remote Sensing Applications

Threatened and Endangered Species Management


Past Research

Landscape-scale Assessment of Mexican Spotted Owl Habitat Using MODIS Imagery

Ecology and Management of Oak Woodlands on Tejon Ranch, CA

Assessing Habitat Linkages in Coastal Open Spaces

Why This Research is Important

The planet is in immense ecological stress and human societies currently face unprecedented challenges such as climate change, species extinctions, pollution, and deforestation, just to name a few (Travis 2003, Bellard et al. 2002, Hu 2014). Natural ecosystems are being altered beyond their capacity and the dynamic ecological patterns and processes that have taken 4.6 billion years to create are now at risk. Green infrastructure, ecological conservation, carbon sequestration, carbon emission reduction projects, and ecological restoration, among others, have been implemented to mitigate for the global ecological crisis we face. However, there is a fundamental, missing piece that is severely underutilized and considered. It involves a very basic concept of combining traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous worldviews with modern western science to create environmentally sustainable solutions. The wealth of knowledge about the local environment within tribal communities is vast and diverse. It has developed over thousands of years and been passed down through a multitude of generations in oral teachings (Berkes et al. 2000). Traditional ecological knowledge compliments western science and is increasingly being recognized by natural resource managers and scientists throughout the world (Trosper and Parrotta 2012, Menzies and Butler 2006). On the other hand, western science can be credited for numerous innovations and technological advances in fields ranging from engineering to medicine to natural resource management. Combined together, the two knowledge sources may provide powerful solutions to our most dynamic and complex environmental problems.


Ph.D. in Forestry, 2016
Northern Arizona University
Masters in Environmental Science & Management, 2011
University of California, Santa Barbara
B.S. in Ecology & Systematic Biology , 2008
California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo

Professional Organizations

  • Society of American Foresters (SAF), Student Member (2012—Current)
  • Native American Fish & Wildlife Society, Student Member (2012—Current)
  • The Wildlife Society, Secretary/Treasurer Of Native Peoples Wildlife Management Working Group (2010—Current)
  • Intertribal Timber Council, Student Member (2008—Current)
  • American Indian Science and Engineering Society, Student Leader And Board Member On Winds Of Change Magazine (2003—Current)

Awards and Recognition

Certified Wildlife Biologist, 2017
The Wildlife Society
First Place 3 Minute Research Presentation, 2014
Student oral research presentation competition at Northern Arizona University
First Place and People's Choice for Best Student Poster, 2014
Award received at the 2014 Intertribal Timber Council Annual Timber Symposium in Worley, ID
Best Student Poster, 2011
Award received at the 2011 The Wildlife Society Annual Meeting in Hawaii
University Service Award, 2011
Awarded upon graduation from UC Santa Barbara in recognition of distinguished service to the University, its students and the community.
Doris Duke Conservation Fellow, 2010
Nominated for award at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, UC Santa Barbara
Oustanding Graduating Ecology Student, 2008
Awarded upon graduation from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo


Research Highlights

Urban native youth environmental education (2017)
NRS-2017-10 Lacrosse is a traditional sport that has been played by American Indian tribes for thousands of years. The impact of emerald ash borer on ash trees and reduction in availability of ash wood used to make lacrosse sticks served as a framework for an environmental education opportunity for urban native youth in the Twin Cities Native Lacrosse Club.

R&D Affiliations
External Resources
  • Natural Inquirer logo Natural Inquirer
  • The sites listed below are third-party sites which the Forest Service has provided for reference only.