Bushfires are a major threat to people, properties and livestock in Australia. Yet many of Australia’s ecosystems require frequent burning to persist and thrive. Prescribed burning is a key tool for managing fuel loads and hence reducing the risk of large, uncontrollable fires. It also plays an important role in maintaining fire-dependent ecosystems. But planning where and when to burn is a difficult problem.
In recent work in press at the Journal of Applied Ecology, we present a decision-support framework for planning prescribed burning in the dry sclerophyll forests of southeast Queensland. We quantify the trade-offs between asset protection and conservation objectives and show that it is possible to achieve good outcomes for conservation with minimal impact on asset protection. The framework also improves asset protection by identifying a better distribution of prescribed burns in space and time. This work provides a transparent, objective and flexible framework that can be applied to many different prescribing burn scheduling problems at large spatial scales.
In the future we will build on this work by developing more sophisticated model of risk to assets, incorporating bushfire hazards and models of ignition points, including other habitat types, and applying it to even broader scales.
Potential research projects
Prospective staff, students and collaborators are welcome to contact Kerrie Wilson to discuss research opportunities within the Lab.
PhD projects in the Wilson Lab are developed collaboratively with students. Most students combine empirical work with theoretical, statistical and/or spatial modelling. Broadly, any topic that addresses a conservation science question is potentially of interest (from conservation prioritization to monitoring and evaluation – see Research Themes) across terrestrial, marine and freshwater systems. Most students are able to apply for a top-up scholarship or project support through one of our funding partners or existing projects.