Moonlight Fire Monitoring and Restoration

Moonlight monitoring_veg transect

Why the Moonlight Fire?

The students of Greenville High School were intimately connected to the Moonlight Fire. The sky-high flames threatened their homes, the smoke congested skies and lungs for weeks, and both resulted in temporary closure of the school. Additionally, an unusually large portion of the Moonlight Fire burned with high severity. Student interest in and connection to the landscape, combined with the unique ecological conditions and need for restoration in this area as a result of high intensity burns, provided an ideal opportunity for a program geared towards increasing student understanding on the Moonlight Fire specifically, and fire ecology and natural resource management in general.

What do  students do in the field?

Greenville High School students participate in field monitoring and restoration activities.

Field Monitoring

After the Moonlight Fire burned through the landscape above Greenville High School, GHS teachers in collaboration with the Sierra Institute and USFS Plumas National Forest took students into the fire footprint to set up long term monitoring plots. These plots were established to allow students to observe natural regeneration processes of a post-wildfire forest. Data collection has focused on  snag longevity, vegetation recovery and wildlife abundance changes in the years after a burn. Students have also established photopoints in their monitoring plots as well as in other locations of the burned area to allow for a qualitative look at how the landscape recovers over time.

Students use this data in the classroom to answer questions about how their monitoring plots change over time and what these changes mean for the forest, all while learning about data management and analysis.


A large portion of the Moonlight Fire burned at high severity, which has a greater effect on the landscape and landscape recovery than low or moderate severity burning. Consequently, natural forest regeneration processes occur at a slower pace and benefit from active restoration efforts. GHS students have assisted US Forest Service personnel in revegetating upland sites with conifer seedlings, and performed restoration plantings in riparian areas with willows and alders. Through these activities, students have not only learned proper propagation and planting techniques, but have garnered an appreciation for the nuances and sensitivity of performing restoration activities in different sites and with variable climates.

What is the classroom component?

Time in the classroom is intricately linked to and heavily complimented by time in the field. Classroom time not only provides the foundation of ecological principles and management practices that students observe in the field, but also allows for instruction on field techniques prior to implementation in the field. Students learn forest and ecosystem monitoring and techniques, use these skills in the field to collect data, and then bring the data back into the classroom to provide a holistic approach to understanding forest and watershed ecosystems.