Picture of                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Toddi Steelman

Toddi Steelman PhD

on sabbatical

Research Area(s)

  • Environmental and natural resource governance
  • Public and community decision-making
  • The interface between science, policy, and decision-making
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Disaster-resilient communities
  • Risk and crisis communication
  • Wildfire preparedness and response

Academic Credentials

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental and Natural Resource Policy, Duke University
  • Master of Public Affairs in Domestic Public Policy, Princeton University
  • Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Political Science, West Virginia University
Shultz Fire

Research Profile

Dr. Steelman's research agenda focuses on improving the governance of environmental and natural resources, emphasizing science, policy, and decision-making interactions, placing special emphasis on the role of the public and community in decision-making.  She also conducts research on understanding community responses to wildfire and how communities and agencies interact for more effective wildfire management.  Dr. Steelman is Co-director, with Dr. Branda Nowell, of the Fire Chasers Project at North Carolina State University.  This project focuses on advancing the science of adaptive capacity toward more disaster resilient communities.  Nowell and Steelman have received funding from the National Science Foundation, Joint Fire Science Program, US Forest Service Research Stations and US Forest Fire and Aviation Management.  Working with local communities and incident command teams from across the United States, they have numerous peer-reviewed and lay-oriented publications that focus on how to coordinate, communicate and collaborate more effectively before and during large wildfire incidences to create more socially resilient responses.

Dr. Steelman is also the principal investigator of the Delta Dialogue Network (DDN).  The DDN is an interdisciplinary collaborative research project looking to understand and build upon the best practices of how knowledge is shared within and across northern inland deltas (the Saskatchewan River Delta, the Slave River Delta, and the Peace-Athabasca Delta) so that it is accessible, meaningful and useful to communities, decision-makers and academics.   She has used GIS, content analysis, surveys, archival document analysis, and in-person interviews in her research projects.

The Delta Days video documents the course of the 2016 event, and includes reflections from interviews with some of the participants.
Wildfire as a socio-ecological problem

News and Media

Current Research

Selected Publications


Steelman, T.A. and McDonnell, J.J.  2017.  Look for the leaders.  Nature, 547: 483. https://doi.org/10.1038/nj7664-483a

Bulla, B.R, Craig, E.A., and Steelman, T.A.  2017.  Climate Change and adaptive decision making: Responses from North Carolina Coastal Officials.  Ocean and Coastal Management, 135: 25-33.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2016.10.017

Steelman, T.  2016.  U.S. wildfire governance as a socio-ecological problem.  Ecology and Society, 21(4): 3.  http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08681-210403

Faas, A.J., Velez, A.-L.K., FitzGerald, C., Nowell, B.L., and Steelman, T.A.  2016.  Patterns of preference and practice: bridging actors in wildfire response networks in the American Northwest.  Disasters, 41(3): 527-548.  https://doi.org/10.1111/disa.12211

Bulla, B., and Steelman, T.  2016.  Farming through change: using photovoice to explore climate change on small family farms.  Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 40(10): 1106-1132.  https://doi.org/10.1080/21683565.2016.1225623

Roos, C.I., Scott, A.C., Belcher, C.M., Chaloner, W.G., Aylen, J., Bliege Bird, R., Coughlan, M.R., Johnson, B.R., Johnston, F.H., McMorrow, J., Steelman T., and the Fire and Mankind Discussion Group.  2016.  Living on a flammable planet:  interdisciplinary, cross-scalar and varied cultural lessons, prospects and challenges.  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 371: 20150469.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0469

Fischer, P.A., Spies, T.A., Steelman, T.A., Moseley, C., Johnson, B.R., Bailey, J.D., Ager, A.A., Bourgeron, P., Charnley, S., Collins, B.M., Kline, J.D., Leahy, J.E., Littell, J.S., Millington, J.D.A., Nielsen-Pincus, M., Olsen, C.S., Paveglio, T.B., Roos, C.I., Steen-Adams, M.M., Stevens, F.R., Vukomanovic, J., White, E.M., and Bowman, D.M.J.S. 2016.  Wildfire Risk as a socio-ecological pathology.  Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 14(5): 276–284.  https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.1283

Steelman, T., Nichols, E., James, A., Bradford, L., Ebersöhn, L., Scherman, V., Omidire, F., Bunn, D., Twyne, W., and McHale, M.  2015. Practicing the science of sustainability:  the challenges of transdisciplinarity in a developing world context.  Sustainability Science, 10(4): 581-599.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-015-0334-4

Diaz, J.M., Steelman, T., and Nowell, B.  2015.  Local Ecological Knowledge and Fire Management: What Does the Public Understand?  Journal of Forestry, 114(1): 58-65(8).  https://doi.org/10.5849/jof.14-026

Nowell, B. and Steelman, T.  2014.  Communication under Fire: Emergence, Embeddedness and Performance in Disaster Response Networks.  Journal of Public Administration Theory and Planning, 25(3): 929-952. https://doi.org/10.1093/jopart/muu021

Northern Village of Cumberland House, Saskatchewan River Delta