Special Event: California on Fire

Thursday, September 19 | 7-9 p.m. | Tickets available at the door.
$10 General | $5 Museum Members
$25 Gold Circle Seating
Location: Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
Doors open at 6 p.m. Pre-registration highly recommended.
Pre-sale closes at noon on Thursday, September 19. Tickets available at the door.

Fire is a hot button issue in California, with over 2 million households living in high or extreme risk of wildfires. In 2018, California experienced 8,054 wildfires, with over 1.8 million acres burned. All of the top 10 costliest wildland fires in U.S. history occurred within the state of California. Yet fire in California is nothing new. Our habitats have developed alongside continual exposure to fire and people have managed our state’s landscapes with fire for millennia.

During this lecture, fire ecologist Tom Parker will present an overview of the California landscape, exploring how climate, soil variation, and plant adaptations to fire impact the frequency and severity of wildfires in California. A panel discussion will follow with representatives from the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, CalFire, and the County of Santa Cruz’s Emergency Services Department. During this discussion we will explore the benefits and dangers of California wildfires, past and current management tactics, disaster preparedness in Santa Cruz County, and fire resiliency in California.


V Thomas Parker, PhD

V. Thomas Parker, PhD | Professor, San Francisco State University

Tom Parker is a Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University, where he has taught since 1980. A plant ecologist and evolutionist, his research focuses on plant community dynamics and conservation. He pays special attention to dispersal, seed banks, seedling establishment, mycorrhizae, and other aspects of ecology and evolution in a variety of California vegetation types, especially chaparral and tidal wetlands. Dr. Parker has authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, edited three books, and co-authored a Field Guide to Manzanitas (a plant of which he is an expert in its systematics and ecology).


Rosemary Anderson

Rosemary Anderson | Emergency Services Manager, County of Santa Cruz Office of Emergency Services

Rosemary Anderson’s diverse career path, which includes work in social services and higher education, has led to her work in emergency management for the past nine years, and to her current role as the Emergency Services Manager for the County of Santa Cruz since 2016. She held the position of Business Continuity Planner and Deputy Emergency Manager at UC Santa Cruz, before joining the County. Her work with local Fire Departments, Law Enforcement, environmental groups, community organizations, and extensive partnerships with county and city agencies and operational partners in neighboring counties enables strengthened capacity, knowledge, and creates a healthy, robust and ever-growing County environment. She has been fortunate to call Santa Cruz County her home since 1975.

Valentin Lopez

Valentin Lopez | Chairman, Amah Mutsun Tribal Band

Valentin Lopez is the Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and the President of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust Board of Directors. Chairman Lopez works tirelessly to honor his ancestors and make sure they are never erased from history or forgotten. He has spoken on numerous occasions on the floor of the United Nations to bring international attention to the cultural and ecological restoration initiatives of his tribe. He serves as a Native American Advisor to the University of California, to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Chairman Lopez is a Mutsun singer and dancer and student of the Mutsun language.

Ken Pimlott

Ken Pimlott | Director (Retired), California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)

Chief Pimlott began his fire service career in 1984 as a reserve fire fighter in Contra Costa County, California. He joined CAL FIRE in 1987 as a seasonal fire fighter, and ultimately worked his way through the ranks to Director, a position he held from 2010 until his retirement in December 2018. Chief Pimlott has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forest Resource Management from Humboldt State University and is a Registered Professional Forester in California. Under his leadership, CAL FIRE and the State of California battled historic wildfires and an unprecedented bark beetle epidemic while at the same time increased the pace and scale of forest management and fire prevention. Chief Pimlott participated in numerous committees at the State and national level and testified before Congress on multiple occasions in support of legislation related to forest management and fire protection, including the federal fire funding fix.