In "Partner Perspectives" we get to know the diverse people, roles, and views of wildfire management in the Pacific. Chelsea Arnott kindly spent some time with us sharing her experience in protecting watershed forests, including post-fire management.
Name: Chelsea Arnott
Current Role: Masters Student, University of Hawai‘i
Former Role: Field Crew Leader, Ko'olau Mountains Watershed Partnership
Pacific Fire Exchange (PFX): Describe your role at Ko'olau Mountains Watershed Partnership (KMWP).
Chelsea (CA): For three years I worked as the KMWP Field Supervisor and managed the field crew. We focused on weed and ungulate control in the upper-most parts of the Ko’olau mountains. These are areas where the native forest is intact and biodiversity is high so typically when you remove invasive species the forest is able to recover with native recruitment.
I’m now working part-time as the KMWP Planner. I'm currently drafting a management plan for our Helemano unit. It involves a lot of researching and writing, laying out background information about the area and developing a strategy for our different activities in those areas. The a large focus is on weed and ungulate control since those are our main activities. There’s also component of wildfire addressed but any fire in these high elevation units is rare.
PFX: What sparked your interest in Wildfire?
CA: I used to live in Southern California where brush fires were frequent but the focus was on impacts to residential areas. Wildfire fell into place for me at KMWP in 2015 when a fire burned one of our management units. It burned a large section of lower-elevation forest in Kipapa which is owned by one of our partner, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). We were able to secure funding to do work in the recently-burned area for weed suppression.
PFX: How do you like to spend your free time?
CA: I enjoy hiking for fun now after having to do it for work for so long. I like being able to go where I want and not have to cut down weeds along the way, though I still love the work KMWP does and go out to volunteer every once in a while. I did a 3-day hike in the northern Ko'olaus before I started my masters program this fall. That was really nice and beautiful, very wet and muddy though. I want to start discovering the Waianae Mountains more.
PFX: Share one thing most people don’t know about you?
CA: I’m a certified scuba instructor. When I moved to Hawaii I worked for dive companies and as a deckhand on dive boats. I always thought I was going to be in the marine world. When you’re on the mainland and think about Hawaii, you think about the ocean - turquoise waters, cool fish, coral reefs - and you don’t think about the mountains. But after I got a job at Oahu Invasive Species Committee, I was like “Terrestrial is pretty cool, this is a pretty awesome place,” so I stuck to that.