CITRIS-funded project helps assess post-wildfire fate of ecosystems

Drone images of UC Natural Reserves before and after wildfires.

After wildfire scours a landscape, some ecosystems recover — and others are forever changed.

A new project led by UC Davis professor Gary Bucciarelli will develop a tool kit that will apply artificial intelligence (AI) to help predict the impact that fire will have on an ecosystem. Drawing from a library of aerial images taken at some of the 41 reserves in the UC Natural Reserve System, the project will identify characteristics that help ecosystems rebound after wildfire. Supported by a 2022 CITRIS Seed Award, the project recently received an additional $230,000 from UC climate action funds.

“Knowing how a system will respond naturally without any human intervention will let people know whether they need to get involved” to sustain landscape health, says Derek Young, a UC Davis researcher who co-leads the project.

Working with Bucciarelli and Young are Todd Dawson of UC Berkeley and Andrew Latimer and Shane Waddell of UC Davis.