Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Tammy M. Rittenour


Tammy M. Rittenour


Larissa Yocom


Christopher Roos


Wildfires appear to be increasing in size, severity, and frequency. Land managers need information on past wildfire behavior to make effective and adaptive land management plans. However, there are only a few techniques and data sources that provide information on past fire heating. This study aims to provide new methods to equip managers with a more robust understanding of historic and modern fire behavior. Fire behavior is assessed using novel methods that can assess soil and rock response to past wildfire heat exposure.

This study examined samples from the 2020 Mangum Fire, in northern Arizona. Sediment and rock were gathered to characterize past fire heating. These samples come from sites with differing soil burn severity (which is a measure of how much the vegetation at the soil surface was destroyed by fire) within the Mangum Fire burn region and sites from outside the fire perimeter.

Luminescence (light) emitted from quartz minerals was analyzed following three methods in the lab to detect past heat exposure. Thermally altered rock color (reddening) was also used to assess past heating.

This study demonstrates that luminescence signals and rock color measurably alter when heated. These methods may be able to characterize past wildfire heating and provide a more detailed characterization of past fire behavior. Understanding the difference between past and present fire characteristics can equip land managers to better steward complex ecosystems and the role of fire within these communities.