Kristen Wilson

Lead Forest Scientist
Climate & Land Use
[email protected]

Dr. Kristen Wilson is the Lead Forest Scientist of The Nature Conservancy in California. She leads a small science team that researches how to protect, restore, and adapt forests to wildfire and climate change. Kristen’s recent work includes developing a framework of resilience to speed up planning of forest thinning and prescribed fire and incorporating consideration of climate change in management planning. She’s also working on natural climate solutions and beaver-based restoration.

Before joining The Nature Conservancy, Kristen completed her Ph.D. in environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley with a focus on river restoration. She holds a M.S. from Johns Hopkins University, a B.A. from Dartmouth College, and previously worked in the Photography Department of National Geographic Magazine.

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2024 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Quantitative methods for integrating climate adaptation strategies into spatial decision support models

Nicholas A. Povak, Patricia N. Manley, Kristen N. Wilson

This study presents a methodology to integrate spatial assessments of current and future forest conditions to understand the potential to achieve desired conditions under climate change with ongoing disturbances. The output is a strategic (where to go) and tactical (what to do) map to improve…

2023 | | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Quantifying the smoke-related public health trade-offs of forest management

Claire L. Schollaert, Jihoon Jung, Joseph Wilkins, Ernesto Alvarado, Jill Baumgartner, Julien Brun, Tania Busch Isaksen, Jamie M. Lydersen, Miriam E. Marlier, Julian D. Marshall, Yuta J. Masuda, Charles Maxwell, Christopher W. Tessum, Kristen N. Wilson, Nicholas H. Wolff, June T. Spector

By modeling six scenarios of forest management, wildfire, and health impacts from smoke from 1981-2020, we found that moderate amounts of prescribed fire can decrease harmful particulate matter exposure and reduce asthma related hospitalizations and emergency department visits. This case study from the Tahoe Central…

2023 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Exploring interacting effects of forest restoration on wildfire risk, hydropower, and environmental flows

Benjamin P. Bryant, Tessa Maurer, Phillip C. Saksa, John D. Herman, Kristen N. Wilson, Edward Smith

The authors of this study analyzed how wildfires and forest restoration, specifically thinning and prescribed fire being implemented in the French Meadows Project in the central Sierra Nevada, could impact streamflow, hydropower generation, and ecological flows for a threatened frog (Foothill yellow legged frogs). By…

2022 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Assessing the effectiveness of landscape-scale forest adaptation actions to improve resilience under projected climate change

Charles J. Maxwell, Robert M. Scheller, Kristen N. Wilson, Patricia N. Manley

The authors hypothesized that mimicking the historic fire-return interval, by matching it with the combined frequency of natural disturbances (wildfire) and management (i.e., thinning and prescribed fire), will maintain forest resilience despite a changing climate. To test our hypothesis, we deployed a forest landscape simulation model, LANDIS-II,…

2022 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Blueprint for Resilience: Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative

Patricia N. Manley, Nicholas A. Povak, Kristen Wilson, Kristen Wilson, Mary Lou Fairweather, Vivian Griffey

The Blueprint is a set of strategy maps that identify opportunities for forest protection and adaptation across a 2.4-million-acre region of the central Sierra Nevada. It uses a novel application of the Ecosystem Management Decision Support (EMDS) tool to evaluate spatial data layers against target…

2022 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Water balance for gaged watersheds in the Central Sierra Nevada, California and Nevada, United States

James W. Roche, Kristen N. Wilson, Qin Ma, Roger C. Bales

This study evaluated the water balance components of precipitation, evapotranspiration, discharge, and change in storage compared to measured streamflow and unregulated streamflow estimates in the central Sierra Nevada. The fifty-two watersheds varied in size and in elevation. This study found that the evapotranspiration estimates plus gridded…

2021 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Framework for Resilience: Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative

P. Manley, K. Wilson, N. Povak

The Framework for Resilience offers a shared vision for resilience that recognizes the interdependent nature of social and ecological values. These values are described by ten pillars that represent the desired outcomes of landscape resilience. Each of the pillars provide metrics for assessing landscape conditions…

2021 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Assessment of Current Landscape Conditions: Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative

Kristen N. Wilson, Patricia N. Manley

Climate change, high-severity wildfire, and drought threaten the resilience of forests and communities in the Sierra Nevada. The Tahoe–Central Sierra Initiative (TCSI) is a partnership of state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, the timber industry, and researchers that was established to improve resilience to climate…

2021 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Biological responses to stream nutrients: A Synthesis of Science From Experimental Forests and Ranges

Kristen Wilson, Dale W. Johnson, Douglas F. Ryan, ed.

Authored by TNC staff and colleague, Chapter 8 of this report synthesizes environmental monitoring and studies performed at Sagehen Experimental Forest that are relevant to water quality regulatory agencies. Water quality in the basin is mainly controlled by groundwater emerging in springs, but wildland fires,…

2020 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

The ideal meander: Exploring freshwater scientist drawings of river restoration

Kristen N. Wilson, , Suzanne L. Baker, G. Mathias Kondolf

Many stream restoration projects are designed with the Natural Channel Design approach, which involves construction of single-thread meandering channels based on formulas for channel form. In some projects, the channel planform follows repeating symmetrical bends. To see if freshwater scientists would draw a similar restored…

2017 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Regional Prioritization for Forest Restoration across California's Sierra Nevada

Rodd Kelsey, Edward Smith, Tanushree Biswas, Chris McColl, Kristen Wilson, Dick Cameron

This report provides a systematic regional-scale assessment of biodiversity, fire regime change, and fire risk to infrastructure of forested watersheds across the Sierra Nevada and prioritizes watersheds for forest restoration where the greatest risk reduction to biodiversity and human infrastructure can be achieved. For priority…

2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Informing watershed planning and policy in the Truckee River basin through stakeholder engagement, scenario development, and impact evaluation

Kristen Wilson, Erik Lowe, Stacey Wolny, Barry Nickel , Rodd Kelsey

This study demonstrates how science-based planning with stakeholder input can improve and direct conservation investments across existing state and jurisdictional boundaries. The authors set out to help direct the type, amount, and location of conservaiton investments in the Truckee River watershed in the Sierra Nevada…