Our research work examines the fundamental principles of fire behaviour, and applies this knowledge to develop practical tools for use in day-to-day fire management. We work closely with fire managers and other stakeholders to ensure that our science is targeted and brings real benefits. We have created a number of tools for predicting behaviour of bushfires and prescribed burns, many of which have been widely adopted by fire managers in Australia.
Research activities include:
- Examining how fires affect social and ecological values, including water supply and carbon storage;
- Investigating how bushfires develop and move across the landscape, including ember transport;
- Examining the relationships between weather, terrain, ecology and forest flammability;
- Examining how fire burns through different fuel layers – from leaf litter to canopy;
- Identifying the factors that lead to property and asset damage from major fires;
- Developing new ways to track the progress of active fires and smoke plumes;
- Developing the science to support effective prescribed burning;
- Mapping the risk and frequency of fire across the landscape;
- Providing practical advice on fire risk management; and
- Developing tools for fire prediction.
Our research is being used to tackle some of Australia’s most difficult bushfire issues. Control and management of large fires in Australia is challenging because of the combination of extreme weather, fire-loving Eucalyptus trees and the fact that burning embers can be carried by winds tens of kilometres ahead of a fire front.
We have developed a state of the art computer model (PHOENIX RapidFire), which can quickly simulate the spread of a bushfire and determine its likely impacts. This model is being used by Australian fire agencies during active fires, to identify areas of highest risk and to guide the firefighting effort. It can be also used to model hypothetical fires, making it possible to create a map showing areas of highest fire risk. A fire risk map can guide fire preparation effort - by putting more effort into the areas of highest risk, communities and fire managers can make the most of limited time and resources.
Our research team also supports operational fire control by providing ongoing training for emergency services staff, ensuring that model predictions are provided in a user friendly format, and supporting integrated systems with good information flow. Having a clear understanding of the location and behaviour of a particular fire can aid decision making about firefighting, evacuation and public warnings.
More Bushfire Behaviour and Management
- Assoc. Prof. Kevin Tolhurst, Kevin is an researcher in fire ecology and fire behaviour who works closely with government agencies to ensure improved landscape management.
- Dr Trent Penman, Lecturer/Research Fellow, Trent is a bushfire risk modeller whose research focuses on quantifying the risk trade-offs in landscape fire management considering a range of human and environmental assets.
- Dr Thomas Duff, Research Fellow, Thomas is a forest scientist who works on projects relating to fire behaviour, risk, ecology and quantitative assessment.
- Dr Jane Cawson, Research Fellow, Jane is a forester whose research examines bushfire behaviour and management, and the effect on vegetation and soils; her current focus is on understanding flammability in wetter forests.
- Mr Derek Chong, Bushfire Modeller, Derek is a research programmer who focuses on developing new systems for aiding fire management decision making.
- Mr Brett Cirulis, Research Assistant, Brett works supporting the research of the fire group, including data analysis and undertaking fieldwork, report writing and fire simulation.
- Luba Volkova Luba is an eco-physiologist whose research focuses on fire effects on forest carbon pools, greenhouse gas emissions and smoke dispersion. Luba is currently working on developing spatial fuel maps for States and a national fuel database for the Federal Government.
- Chris Weston, Chris is an ecosystem ecologist whose research focuses on forest net productivity, nutrient and carbon cycles. Current areas of research include fire effects on forest carbon balance, black carbon formation and impact of climate change on forest fuel accumulation and structure.
- Mr Kangmin Moon (PhD candidate), Kangmin researchers the relationships between vertical wind profiles and vegetation structure for fire behaviour prediction.
- Ms Lisa Cheong (PhD candidate), Lisa is undertaking a project entitled 'Visualization of uncertainty for decision-making in bushfire and disaster management'.
- Mr Paul Bentley (Masters candidate), Paul investigates structural forest changes following an extreme wildfire.
- Mr Christopher Morton (Masters candidate), Chris researches flammability dynamics of Australian landscapes.
- Mr David De Podolinsky (Masters candidate), David investigates the link between fire behaviour and fuel properties.
- Ms Tara Penman (Honours candidate), Tara investigates interactions between vegetation structure and forest fires.