When one thinks of areas where historians are likely to be found, the fireline is not necessarily the first place that comes to mind. But the fireline— the point in wildland firefighting where firefighters work to stop the advance of a fire from spreading through burning areas to places yet untouched by flames— is exactly where Sam Gilvarg ’15 can be found. Gilvarg, who double majored in History and Environmental Studies at Gettysburg College, is currently serving with Barnstable County AmeriCorps as a member of the ‘Firecorps’. As a member of Firecorps, Gilvarg primarily serves with the National Park Service at Cape Cod National Seashore. Most of his work focuses on using fire as a tool to restore and promote globally rare Coastal Heathland habitat on Cape Cod. The plant community that defines this niche depends on fire to survive, and decades of wildfire suppression has degraded the land. By participating in prescribed burns, Gilvarg is helping to conserve and protect many endangered plant and animal species.
Gilvarg feels that the multidisciplinary education that he received at Gettysburg College as a History major has benefited him tremendously on the fireline. “Fire ecology as a discipline is innately dynamic in practice” Gilvarg says; “to conduct an effective and safe burn one has to be cognizant of many factors all at play at once: differing fuel types, changing weather patterns, and the interplay of terrain among them— and my training as a Historian has allowed me to critically synthesis all of this information, coming in from different sources, into one complete package in a timely manner.” In the future, Gilvarg hopes to pursue a career that combines his training in both history and the natural sciences, continuing his work conserving and protecting biodiversity so that we do not lose irreplaceable elements of our natural heritage.