Research team earns grant to advance wildfire resiliency

An interdisciplinary research team at the UO has received an $500,000 award to advance understanding of the social and ecological factors shaping wildfire recovery in forests and nonindustrial private lands.

The team is led by Heidi Huber-Stearns, a research professor in the Institute for Resilient Organizations, Communities, and Environments. The award is from the Joint Fire Science Program, a joint effort of the federal Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service.

The team will explore how the interplay of recovery efforts at individual and institutional levels shape the resilience of lands and communities after wildfire events, with a focus on 2020 Labor Day fires in Western Oregon. In addition to advancing fundamental knowledge, the research team will create a “wildfire recovery toolbox,” with recommendations and tools to develop more forward-thinking wildfire recovery strategies among nonindustrial, private forestland managers.

The three-year grant will fund institute researchers Huber-Stearns and Mike Coughlan; Ben Clark, Michael Howard and Dyana Mason in the School of Planning, Public Policy, and Management, part of the College of Design; and Yekang Ko and Jun Hak Lee in the Department of Landscape Architecture, also in the College of Design, as well as partners at Sustainable Northwest, the Forest Stewards Guild, and community-based organizations in Western Oregon supporting fire recovery efforts.

The project also will provide unique, immersive student learning opportunities as part of the applied research efforts. Students will contribute to research via graduate capstone experiences in nonprofit management and public administration, as well as design studios in landscape architecture.

“We are building a robust, interdisciplinary community of researchers at the University of Oregon who are examining wildfire resilience from a variety of perspectives,” Huber-Stearns said. “This is an exciting opportunity to integrate much of that work with the real-time needs of community-based partners and landowners while also providing unique student experiences.”

By Kate Petcosky-Kulkarni, Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation