Research

Research interests

Natural and human systems across the globe appear to be changing at unprecedented rates. My research centers around understanding the drivers of environmental change at ecosystem, landscape and biome scales. I am interested in how disturbances shape structure and function, integrate processes across scales, catalyze environmental change, and vary through time and space. Fire, as a key driver of material and energy cycling, species composition, and ecosystem function across much of North America’s forests, has been the focus of my graduate research.

For my MS at the University of Montana, I reconstructed the last 450+ years of fire activity in an Alaskan interior boreal forest landscape to explore interactions among fire, climate and tree establishment. I also synthesized a body of paleofire records from across the Alaskan boreal forest to characterize biome-scale patterns and drivers of fire activity during the Holocene.

Current projects

My first dissertation project will investigate the relative importance of seed availability and environmental conditions as mechanisms controlling post-fire regeneration in subalpine forests in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The work is part of a larger project supported by NSF’s RAPID program, with a broader objective of understanding the consequences of 2016 GYE fires that occurred after considerably shorter return intervals than have been observed in the historic and paleo records (i.e., <30 yrs vs. 100-300 yrs).

Recent work

Hoecker, T.J. and P.E. Higuera. “Vegetation dynamics and climate regulated landscape flammability over the last four centuries in an Alaskan boreal forest ecosystem.” In prep.

 Hoecker, T.J., P.E. Higuera, R. Kelly, F.S. Hu. 2017. “Variability and synchrony in 10,000 years of Alaskan fire history: Using paleoecological data to understand the controls and implications of fire-regime change.” Annual Meeting, Ecological Society of American. Oral presentation. doi: 10.6084/m9.figshare.5296171

Hoecker, T.J., P.E. Higuera, R. Kelly, F.S. Hu. 2015. “Spatiotemporal trends in late-Holocene fire regimes in arctic and boreal Alaska.” Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union. San Francisco, CA. Oral presentation.