Jim Malusa

Jim Malusa,

Research Scientist with the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, UA

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

2:30–3:30 pm

An ASA Zoom Webinar* 



Fires are distressing:  Over the last thirty years, every mountain range in southeastern Arizona has burned. In forty-eight years of hiking the mountains surrounding Tucson, Jim Malusa has watched the changes in the geography of plants. To document the changes wrought by flame, he goes to locations with pre-fire photos and vegetation data, and then precisely matches the photos.

For example, eleven years ago he took a series of photos in the Chiricahua Mountains while creating a vegetation map for the Coronado National Forest.  A year later, the mountain burned. Malusa has been returning every two years to the same locations to document the trajectory of vegetation change. The matches show that the effects of fire depend not only on its intensity but the ecosystem in which it burned. For the Arizona Senior Academy, he will share some of those photo sequences to give us an idea of the resilience of different vegetation types, from saguaros to pine trees.  We will be given a glimpse into the botanical diversity around us. As he says, it “is mind-boggling because the Coronado sits at a four-way intersection, where the Sonoran Desert meets the Chihuahuan Desert, where the tail of the Rocky Mountains becomes the tip of the Sierra Madre.”

Jim Malusa received a BS in 1980 from the University of Arizona, an MS in1983 from San Diego State University, and a Ph D in 1989 from the University of Arizona. When he got his first backpack on his 16th birthday, he immediately set off into the Catalina Mountains and has not stopped hiking since that day.  The Coronado National Forest is indeed his laboratory for studying his specialties of plant geography, invasive species, and fire ecology.

Compiled by Maria Dobozy, Academy Village Volunteer


*To access the Zoom Webinar, please write info@arizonasenioracademy.org.



July 21: “Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire: Vegetation Change on the Coronado National Forest”