Provost's virtual speaker series looks at Oregon's 2020 wildfires

Houses destroyed by wildfire

The University of Oregon will kick off the second part of its virtual speaker series “Voices of Impact and Innovation” beginning with a session on the devastating effect the 2020 Labor Day fires had on the state and the region.

The series, which began last year, is sponsored by Provost and Senior Vice President Patrick Phillips and the Office of the Provost. It is designed to highlight the real-world impact of the UO’s innovative approach to solving some of the world’s biggest problems.

The opener for the second season, “Wildfire Recovery,” will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 31. Nearly three dozen fires burned approximately a million acres across the state, making the 2020 wildfire season one of the most destructive on record.

Panelists will explore fire ecology and community preparedness and address future fire threats. They will also discuss the UO’s contributions to recovery efforts in the Western region of the U.S.

“This series gives us a chance to take a deeper dive into the university’s initiatives and really join with faculty and experts in our community who are researching and helping to address these issues,” said Wendy Westphal, an associate director of stewardship and donor services.

Panelists include Cassandra Moseley, interim vice president for research and innovation at the UO; Thomas Spies, emeritus scientist with the U.S. Forest Service and courtesy professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University; Patence Winningham-Melcher, Lane County emergency manager; and Sarah Altemus-Pope, coordinator and facilitator for the Southern Willamette Forest Collaborative.

The event serves as an opportunity to engage in a conversation with experts and gives participants the opportunity to voice concerns, ask questions and discuss possible solutions.

“The UO is working to address some of the larger problems in not just our immediate community but also the state of the country,” Westphal said. “It's an opportunity to come together to learn about something that really has impacted us in different ways.”

The series is designed to let faculty members showcase their work with the UO’s community in a Zoom setting, including an interactive Q&A. The talks are hosted by the Office of the Provost and open to anyone who registers before the event. Participants will be able to submit questions ahead of time for panelists to answer.

The next event of the series will take place May 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. A panel will explore the state of Oregon’s economy as the country begins to recover from more than a year of economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

—By Cheyenne Thorpe, University Communications