The Big Jack Mountain fire in NSW, February 2020. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service.

The Big Jack Mountain fire in NSW, February 2020. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service.

Australian bushfire researchers are working together to attack the causes and consequences arising from the recent extraordinary run of bushfires across much of Australia. The Bushfire Science Roundtable met in mid-January in Canberra under the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews, with scientists from a wide range of organisations involved in bushfire-related science. The CRC was represented by Chair Dr Katherine Woodthorpe, Research Director Dr John Bates, and researchers Prof Vivienne Tippet from the Queensland University of Technology and Dr Geoff Cary from the Australian National University.

The Minister noted that the all the participants in the Roundtable agreed to greater collaboration across science and research efforts to collectively leverage the best knowledge and to avoid duplication of effort.

Dr Woodthorpe said that the meeting acknowledged the improvements research has made to keep Australians safer from natural hazards, but that there is still much we do not know.

“Whilst it is clear that outcomes from recently completed research has saved lives, and assisted fire services in understanding fire behavior and managing their response to bushfires, there is still much that a coordinated national research effort can do to minimise the impacts of bushfires on people, communities and the environment,” Dr Woodthorpe said.

To get the effort started, CSIRO has coordinated the input from Roundtable members to produce a factsheet on the factors contributing to the fires. Find the factsheet here.

Further plans for Roundtable members involve mapping the current research capacity in Australia, working with communities to be engaged in the science, involving industry in the development of mitigation and adaptation solutions, and examining the potential of technology to assist fire response and management. Other members of the Roundtable include the Australian Space Agency, Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology, Office of the Chief Scientist, the Australian Academy of Science, ANSTO and Science and Technology Australia.

Minister Andrews highlighted that disaster response, recovery and resilience activities should be informed by multi-disciplinary research. Bushfire research, as well as broader natural hazards research, demands drawing on a wide range of disciplines, including the natural and physical sciences, engineering, humanities and social sciences. The group of experts was brought together to understand the state of the current science and where the opportunities are for future science.

After the Roundtable meeting, Dr John Bates spoke on ABC PM and ABC RN Drive.