Researchers from six different Canadian universities have been selected to lead the new National Wildland Fire Research Network,
a federally funded plan that aims to expand knowledge of forest fires in Canada.
The leadership for the team will consist of Mike Flannigan from the University of Alberta, Lori Daniels from the University of British Columbia, Laura Chasmer from the University of Lethbridge, Douglas Woolford from Western University, Mike Waddington from McMaster University, and Patrick James and David Martell from the University of Toronto.
The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN), announced the funding on June 24, and stated that the $5 million will go toward the development
of a Wildland Fire Research Network in Canada in collaboration with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The organizations will work closely with the Canadian Partnership for Wildland Fire Science, based at the University of Alberta.
The resulting networking program will train new master’s, PhD, and post-doctoral students in forest-fire research techniques, to innovate the management of fires to protect more Canadians.
“I have three new PhD students who have already signed on, and there will be more in the future,” Patrick James from the University of Toronto (U of T) said. “Without this grant I wouldn’t have had the financial means to take on these students. It’s a huge boost to our forestry group.”
According to U of T, the varied backgrounds and institutional connections of the network’s participants will allow students to study forest fires from the perspectives of different disciplines, including ecology, physics, chemistry, and the social sciences.
The end result will be a new generation of highly qualified researchers and professionals with diverse skills, knowledge, and connections necessary to protect Canada’s forests and their surrounding communities for decades to come.
The infusion of money into Canadian forest-fire research comes at the right time – as climate change continues, scientists expect forest fires to become more frequent and more severe.
The $5 million funds are part of a $151.23 million federal investment in the Emergency Management Strategy for Canada announced in Budget 2019, to strengthen Canadians’ ability to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters and climate-related emergencies. This network was also one of the 15 recommendations outlined in the Blueprint for Wildland Fire Science in Canada.
“We have to continue to reduce the risk that fires pose to people, communities, and infrastructure,” said Minister O’Regan. “That is exactly what this investment will do.”