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Department of Geography
Dean Hall 301
(509) 963-1188

Megan Walsh


Department of Geography
Cultural and Environmental Resource Management Program

Dean Hall 308
Phone: (509) 963-3699


I am a biogeographer and paleoecologist interested in the late Quaternary environments of western North America and Central America, specifically the role of fire on the landscape. I use high-resolution macroscopic charcoal and pollen analysis to reconstruct past changes in fire activity and vegetation and evaluate their relationship with climatic variability and human activity. I mostly work with sediment cores from lakes and wetlands, but I also work with archaeological sediments. I have done field work in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and most recently Belize. To find out more about my research and the Paleoecology Lab at CWU, click on the link to my website above!

Current Research

Specific Interests:
Late Quaternary paleoecology and paleoclimatology; the role of fire in ecosystems of the western United States and Central America; (paleo)human/environment interactions; biogeographical impact of global climate change; application of paleoecological data to land-management policy

Current research locations:

  • Ponderosa pine woodlands of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area (Okanogan County; north-central Washington)
  • Subalpine forests/meadows of Mt. Rainier National Park
  • Montane forests/meadows of the Oregon Cascades
  • Willamette Valley of Oregon and Washington
  • Lowland and coastal mangrove forests of southern Belize


Ph.D. (U. of Oregon, 2008)- Natural and Anthropogenic Influences on the Holocene Fire and Vegetation History of the Willamette Valley, Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington;  co-Advisors: Drs. Cathy Whitlock and Patrick J. Bartlein

M.S. (U. of Utah, 2002)- Fire history of two selected sites in the spruce-fir life zone of the Uinta Mountains, Utah, determined using macroscopic charcoal analysis; advisor Dr. Katrina Moser

B.S. (U. of Denver, 1999)- Minors: Geography and French


Courses currently taught at CWU (visit my website to view the course syllabi):

  • Introduction to Physical Geography (GEOG 107); annually
  • Biogeography (GEOG 387/487); every spring
  • Weather and Climate (GEOG 388/488); every winter
  • Methods in Paleoecology (GEOG 407); occasionally
  • Climate Change (GEOG 441); biannually fall
  • Forest Environments (GEOG 454); biannually spring
  • Pyrogeography (GEOG 455); biannually fall
  • Introduction to Graduate Research (REM 505)
  • Resource Management Colloquium (REM 506)

Current and Former Graduate Students

Michael Lukens, 2010-2013 (completed)
Thesis title: The Roles of Humans and Climatic Variation on the Fire History of Subalpine Meadows, Mt. Rainier National Park

Tamara Cox, 2011-present
Thesis topic: The Role of Anthropogenic Fire as a Driver of Plant Succession and Forest Ecology in Meadow Environments, Willamette National Forest, Oregon.

Kevin Haydon, 2011-present
Thesis topic: Holocene Fire and Vegetation History of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, Okanogan County, Washington

Serafina Ferri, 2013-present
Thesis topic: Fire and human history of the Teanaway Mountains, Washington

Christopher Goodner, 2013-present:
Thesis topic: Fire History of the Blue Mountains, Oregon

Research Publications

Walsh, M.K., Prufer, K.M, Culleton, B.J., and Kennett, D.J. (in review). A late Holocene paleoenvironmental reconstruction from Agua Caliente, southern Belize, linked to regional climate variability and cultural change at the Maya polity of Uxbenká. Quaternary Research.

Walsh, M.K. (forthcoming). Teaching geographic field methods using paleoecology. Journal of Geography.

Marlon, J.R., Bartlein, P.J., Long, C., Gavin, D., Anderson, R.S., Briles, C.E., Colombaroli, D., Brown, K.J., Hallett, D.J., Power, M.J., Scharf, E., Walsh, M.K. (2012).  A long-term perspective on wildfires in the western US. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, 3203-3205.

Power, M.J., Mayle, F.E., Bartlein, P.J., Marlon, J.R., Anderson, R.S., Behling, H., Brown, K.J., Carcaillet, C., Colombaroli, D., Gavin, D.G., Hallett, D.J., Horn, S.P., Kennedy, L.M., Lane, C., Long, C., Moreno, P.I., Paitre, C., Robinson, G., Taylor, Z., Walsh, M. 2012. Climatic control of the biomass-burning decline in the Americas after AD 1500.  The Holocene, 23: 3-13.

Marlon, J.R., Cui, Q., Gaillard, M. -J., McWethy, D., Walsh, M. (2010). Humans and fire: Consequences of anthropogenic burning during the past 2 ka. PAGES News 18, 80-82.

Walsh, M.K., Whitlock, C., Bartlein, P.J. (2010). 1200 years of fire and vegetation history in the Willamette Valley, Oregon and Washington, reconstructed using high-resolution macroscopic charcoal and pollen analysis. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 297, 273-289.

Kennett, D.J., Piperno, D.R., Jones, J.G., Neff, H., Voorhies, B., Walsh, M.K., Culleton, B.J. (2010). Pre-pottery agriculturalists on the Pacific Coast of Southwest Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Science 37, 3401-3411.

Walsh, M.K., Pearl, C.A., Whitlock, C., Bartlein, P.J., Worona, M. (2010). An 11,000-year-long fire and vegetation history from Beaver Lake, central Willamette Valley, Oregon.  Quaternary Science Reviews 29, 1093-1106.

Reynolds, R.L., Mordecai, J.S., Rosenbaum, J.G., Ketterer, M.E., Walsh, M.K., Moser, K.A. (2010).  Compositional changes in sediments of subalpine lakes, Uinta Mountains (Utah): evidence for the effect of human activity on atmospheric dust inputs. Journal of Paleolimnology 44, 161-175.

Marlon, J.R., Bartlein, P.J., Walsh, M.K., Harrison, S.P., Brown, K.J., Edwards, M.E., Higuera, P.E., Power, M.J., Anderson, R.S., Briles, C., Brunelle, A., Carcaillet, C., Daniels, M., Hu, F.S., Lavoie, M., Long, C., Minckley, T., Richard, P.J.H., Shafer, D.S., Tinner, W., Umbanhowar, Jr., C.E., Whitlock, C.  (2009). Wildfire responses to abrupt climate change in North America.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 106, 2519-2524.

Power M.J., et al. (2008). Changes in Fire Regimes Since the Last Glacial Maximum: An Assessment Based on a Global Synthesis and Analysis of Charcoal Data. Climate Dynamics 30, 887-907.

Walsh, M.K. (2008). Natural and Anthropogenic Influences on the Holocene Fire and Vegetation History of the Willamette Valley, Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington.  PhD Dissertation, University of Oregon, Eugene.

Walsh, M.K., Whitlock, C., Bartlein, P.J. (2008). A 14,300-year-long record of fire-vegetation-climate linkages at Battle Ground Lake, southwestern Washington. Quaternary Research 70, 251-264.

Whitlock, C., Bianchi, M.M., Bartlein, P.J., Markgraf, V., Marlon, J., Walsh, M., McCoy, N. (2006). Postglacial vegetation, climate, and fire history along the east side of the Andes (lat 41-42.5°S), Argentina. Quaternary Research 66, 187-201.

Walsh, M.K. (2005). Vegetation history of the southern Willamette Valley. In: Mount Pisgah Arboretum Guidebook: A Natural History of the Southern Willamette Valley, Oregon, 11th Edition, (Rhoda M. Love, ed.), pp. 140-146.

Whitlock, C., Bartlein, P.J., Bianchi, M.M., Briles, C., Brunelle, A., Long, C., Markgraf, V., Marlon, J. Meeker, C., Power, M., Walsh, M. (2003). Disturbance frequency changes in western North and South America during the Holocene. EOS Transactions 84.

Walsh, M.K. (2002). Fire History of Two Selected Sites in the Spruce-Fir Life Zone of the Uinta Mountains, Utah, Determined Using Macroscopic Charcoal Analysis. Master’s Thesis, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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