From Theory to Application: Extreme Fire, Resilience, Restoration, and Education in Social-Ecological Disciplines
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Conceptual and theoretical advancements have been developed in recent years to break down the assumptions and traditional boundaries that establish seemingly independent disciplines, and the research outlined in this dissertation aspires to build on these advancements to provide innovative solutions to a broad array of modern problems in social-ecological. I used a variety of techniques to address challenges ranging from disconnections between theory and application, perceived versus realized roles of prescribed fire in resprouting shrublands, and the need for broader participation in research as part of undergraduate education. The chapters in this dissertation serve as a case-study approach across multiple scientific disciplines that overcome the traditions and assumptions that conflict with our ability to develop innovative solutions to modern social-ecological problems. First, I bridge theoretical and applied concepts by showing how recent theoretical advancements in resilience can be integrated into a predictive framework for environmental managers. Second, experimental data from multiple experiments were collected in two ecological regions of Texas to assess the potential for using extreme fire, in isolation and in combination with herbicide, as a novel intervention approach in resprouting shrublands of the southern Great Plains. The findings from these experiments demonstrate the importance of moving past traditional assumptions of when prescribed fire should be applied to demonstrate new patterns of woody plant responses to the applications of “more extreme” prescribed fires while not causing undesirable invasions by exotic grasses and exotic insects. Finally, I initiated a PhD instructed course on undergraduate research that sought to increase undergraduate participation while lowering the costs of conducting research. This chapter shows how traditional approaches of supporting undergraduate research are incapable of meeting the broader goals established by society and reveal a novel approach that can provide an additional pathway for supporting undergraduate student participation at large, research-based universities. Ultimately, this research suggests that our capacity to enhance services in social-ecological systems ultimately hinges upon the integration of theoretical and applied concepts that drive policy and governance and overcoming the assumptions and traditions that limit their integration.
Twidwell, Dirac (2012). From Theory to Application: Extreme Fire, Resilience, Restoration, and Education in Social-Ecological Disciplines. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from