Holly Eagleston, Ph. D.

Geospatial Biologist
Regional Office, Albuquerque
Phone: 505-248-6805
Email: holly_eagleston@fws.gov

 “Maps are like campfires – everyone gathers around them, because they allow people to understand complex issues at a glance, and find agreement about how to help the land.”


Scientific Interests:
I use advanced geospatial technology to monitor, model and map vegetation composition and structure. I am interested in using satellite imagery, LiDAR and GIS to determine habitat characteristics, understand the multiscale dynamics of landscape change, and detect the effect of disturbance.

Current Projects:

Alternative fuel models to estimate fire behavior patterns in semi-desert grassland, Arizona –  LANDFIRE fuel model products are available nation-wide and can be used to predict the spread and intensity of wildland fires.  However, for the semi-desert grasslands in Arizona the models typically assume low flammability of desert grasslands because of low to moderate fuel loads and connectivity. Invasive plant dominance and increased fuel load on more productive sites suggest that alternative fuel models or adjustments are needed to accurately estimate grassland fire behavior over large landscapes. We developed a custom fuel model for semi-desert grasslands in southern Arizona using vegetation plots, fine-fuel data, and scaled up with high resolution satellite data. We compared the performance of fire behavior model outputs on simulated fires and real wildfires that occurred in the last 10 years. Wildfires commonly burn between several hundred to a few thousand hectares during the months of May to July each year. Our custom model provides a more accurate estimate for semi-desert fuel types and can be used by the fire managers to more strategically target fuel reduction efforts to help mitigate hazardous conditions.

Mapping vegetation cover using Worldview-3 and Landsat 8 multispectral imagery to model habitat conditions – The 48,000 ha Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) was established in 1985 for the re-introduction of the critically endangered masked bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus ridgwayi) to semidesert grasslands. Since that time, prescribed fire has played an important role in vegetation management on BANWR, burning 1,000 ha/yr or more. To analyze fire effects on habitat, we measured a total of 446, 20m x 50m vegetation plots within fire frequency strata between 2012 and 2015, recording plant species composition, structure, and herbaceous plant biomass (fine fuels). We scaled-up plot-level measurements to map vegetation characteristics for assessing habitat and hazardous fuel conditions across the refuge. Worldview-3 (WV3) imagery was acquired for BANWR in both September (peak green) and November (senesced/dormant vegetation) of 2015 in addition to 2014 and 2015 Landsat-8 imagery for these same phenologic stages. We used regression tree analysis to develop a suite of vegetation imagery products used to identify areas for habitat rehabilitation and locations for captive bird releases.

Detecting status of Masked Bobwhite Quail in Sonora, Mexico – Masked Bobwhite Quail (Colinus virginianus ridgwayi) have a historic range into Sonora Mexico.  The last wild population was seen in 2011.  We surveyed with Automatic Recording Units (ARUs) to determine if the quail still occupy the area.  We also completed and paired vegetation survey to assess habitat quality. This research informs future steps of captive bird release and habitat rehabilitation efforts in the area.

Previous Projects:

Before starting with the USFWS, I was at Virginia Tech and my research focused on ecological impacts from visitor use in protected natural areas. I worked in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota analyzing long-term impacts to vegetation structure from camping and canoeing activities.  I also led a project modelling trail erosion along the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire to remotely identify areas in need of maintenance.


Ph.D., 2016, Virginia Tech, Geospatial and Environmental Analysis
M.S., 2011, Central Washington University, Natural Resource Management
B.A., 2008, Mount Holyoke College, Biology/Geography

Other Interests:

When not working I enjoy spending time outdoors any chance I get.  I love to travel and explore different landscapes through mountaineering, backcountry skiing and biking.


Sesnie, S. and H. Eagleston. 2016.  DOI Remote Sensing Activities Worldview-3 derived vegetation products for masked bobwhite quail habitat management and re-introduction. DOI Remote Sensing Working Group. https://eros.usgs.gov/doi-remote-sensingactivities/2016/

Eagleston, H. and J. Marion. 2017. Sustainable Campsite Management in protected areas: a Study of Long-term Ecological Changes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota, USA. Journal for Nature Conservation 37: 73-82. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1617138116301005

Marion, J., Leung, Y.-F., Eagleston, H. and K. Burroughs. 2016. State-of-knowledge Review and Synthesis: 50 years of Wilderness Recreation Ecology Research. Journal of Forestry, 114(3): 352-362. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/saf/jof/2016/00000114/00000003/art00013

Marion, J., Arredondo, J. and H. Eagleston. 2016. Large Special Use Events: Resource Impact Evaluation and Best Management Practices. USGS Research Report. 99 pp.

Eagleston, H. 2016. Integrating geospatial technology and ecological research in recreation planning and analysis of sustainable recreation infrastructure. Dissertation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. 128pp. https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/71311/Eagleston_HA_D_2016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Marion, J., Eagleston, H., and C. Carr. 2015. Visitor Use Management Indicators and Monitoring Protocols: Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. USGS Research Report. 82 pp.

Eagleston, H. and C. Rubin. 2013. Impacts of Winter Recreation on Snowmelt Erosion, Blewett Pass, WA. Environmental Management, 51(1): 167-181 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00267-012-9963-x

Eagleston, H. and J. Marion. (In review).  “Naturalness” in designated Wilderness: Long-term changes in non-native plant dynamics on campsites, Boundary Waters, Minnesota.Environmental Management.

Eagleston, H. and J. Marion. (In review).  Application of airborne LiDAR and GIS in modeling trail erosion along the Appalachian Trail, New Hampshire. International Journal of Geographical Information Science.