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CITRIS Research Exchange: Crystal Kolden on Fire Science

Talk Title: “How Do We Stop Wildfire Disasters? A Complex Systems Perspective”

Speaker: Crystal Kolden, Assistant Professor of Fire Science, UC Merced

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Abstract: Wildfires are a complex physical process that occurs both naturally and at the hands of humans. Fires are necessary to support many ecosystems and cultures, but are producing increasingly disastrous human outcomes globally, and particularly in the western United States. While engineering and technological advances have substantially mitigated other types of natural disasters over decades, there is a considerable lag in this arena for wildfire, which is a product of how fire has been historically viewed in the U.S. This presentation reviews both why the frameworks applied to disaster mitigation have been overlooked with respect to wildfire and also the state of the science regarding common misconceptions about wildfire mitigation. Also highlighted are key areas where engineering, technology and data sciences could produce substantial and rapid advances in mitigating wildfire disasters. Suggestions are offered for the development of near-term research in wildfire mitigation and adaption, particularly through replication, amplification and expansion of natural biological solutions.

Photo of Crystal KoldenSpeaker Bio: Crystal Kolden is a pyrogeographer with over two decades of experience in fire science. After beginning her career as a wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service in California, she earned graduate degrees in geography focused on remote sensing of wildfires. She has spent the last 15 years trying to understand the causes of and identify solutions to rapidly increasing wildfire disasters. Kolden conducts research on wildfire disaster mitigation and works with communities and agencies globally to develop and implement adaptation strategies.

About the Series: CITRIS Research Exchange delivers fresh perspectives on information technology and society from distinguished academic, industry and civic leaders. Free and open to the public, these seminars feature leading voices on societal-scale research issues. Presentations take place on Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. PT. Have an idea for a great talk? Please feel free to suggest potential speakers for our series.

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