Fiona was one of the first intake of female students at VSF in 1976. She graduated from VSF in 1978, and then obtained her BForSci (Hons) at Melbourne University in 1981. She was awarded the Caltex Woman Graduate of the Year for Victoria, and used her award to study at Oregon State University, receiving an MSc in forest modelling in 1983.
Before going to the US, Fiona lectured at Creswick, now part of the University of Melbourne, teaching botany and dendrology. On her return, she worked on forest modelling and timber harvest regulation. She returned to Creswick in 1984 to work on research into fuel reduction burning, before being appointed senior fire research officer in the Fire Management Branch. During this time she was awarded an Emergency Services Foundation study award, took part in a US Fire Study Tour and toured Canada and the US to learn about fire information systems. On her return she managed the development of the first bushfire information systems for the Department.
In 1993 she became team leader of forest growth and yield, and played a key role in the development and delivery of the Statewide Forest Resource Inventory (SFRI) project. This project provided the foundation for review and revision of timber resource availability over the next 10 years. Successive major fires in 2003, 2006/7 and 2009 each required reviews, with Fiona leading the resource analysis and modelling, defending the data and analysis, and liaising with VicForests, industry and staff on the changes.
From 2011 to 2014 Fiona lead a project to monitor the impacts of increased planned burning on biodiversity. developed in response to a recommendation of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, following the 2009 fires.
Fiona is married to fellow forester, Fred Cumming, has two children, and lives in the Wombat Forest.