Andi Koonce passed away on July 24 after a long illness. She was instrumental in the early formation of the International Association of Wildland Fire, first by conceiving the professional organization, and later by serving as one of the first members of the board of directors in 1990. Koonce helped to formulate the idea of a high-quality, refereed scientific journal to help establish fire science as an international recognized discipline, eventually resulting in the development of what is now the International Journal of Wildland Fire.
Koonce earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Arizona State University in 1973, and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Oregon State University in 1981. Her areas of graduate study included forest science, forest ecology and forest pathology; her graduate research examined the interaction between fire and dwarf mistletoe in ponderosa pine. Upon graduation, Koonce went to teach at the National School of Forest Sciences in Honduras and directed a tree improvement program in tropical pines. When the Honduran school closed, she returned to the United States and joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point to teach forestry courses. While there in 1984, she established the Fire Science Center, which supported research and extension activities related to prescribed fire in the Midwestern. In 1988 she left academia and joined Forest Service Research as Project Leader of the Prescribed Fire Research Unit at the Forest Fire Laboratory in Riverside, Calif. — becoming one of the first female U.S. Forest Service project leaders in fire research.
In addition to her research, Koonce was a strong supporter of efforts to improve and increase the roles of women in fire research. When the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station eliminated several lines of research due to funding reductions in 1996, Koonce joined the Fire and Aviation Management Staff in the Forest Service's National Office. She provided expertise in fire planning and fuels in this capacity for several years before moving to Milwaukee, Wis. to work as a fire staff specialist in the Forest Service's Eastern Regional Office. In this capacity she was able to provide technical expertise to the national forests in support of prescribed burning and fuels management in this 20-state area. After several years in Milwaukee, she returned to California where she was initially a Forest Pathologist on the San Bernardino National Forest, and later oversaw the Forest Health Protection Program for the four national forests in Southern California. Koonce always maintained her interest in tropical forestry and her last research project involved fire damage in Caribbean pine plantations in Nicaragua.