CAR investigator recognised among women leaders in fire science 

7 February 2019

CAR Chief Investigator Associate Professor Fay Johnston has been recognised at a gathering of women fire researchers during the Tasmanian bushfire crisis.

 

The meeting, organised by the University of Tasmania’s Fire Centre Research Hub, honoured Associate Professor Johnston and her University of Tasmania colleague Dr Lynda Prior, who in 2018 were recognised among 145 international ‘Women Leaders in Fire Science’ in a research paper in the journal Fire.

 

Associate Professor Johnston, an environmental health researcher from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, is also a member of the Department of Health response team in the bushfire crisis. Dr Prior is a fire ecologist with the University’s Fire Research Hub who researches the effects of fire on tree demography and vegetation dynamics.

 

Two visiting fire academics recognised in the list of Women Leaders in Fire Science were also part of the group: Associate Professor Crystal Kolden, a pyrogeographer from the University of Idaho in the US who studies fire disasters and fire management; and Dr Christine Eriksen, a feminist geographer with expertise in wildfire and gender from the University of Wollongong.

 

The gathering included 18 women working in bushfire research spanning PhD to Professorial career stages and working in social, medical, geographic and biological disciplines. 

 

The research paper in Fire introduced senior and emerging women researchers in fire from across the globe and in a wide array of subdisciplines in fire science. 

Associate Professor Kolden, a co-lead author on the paper, said women were more greatly affected by natural disasters and there was a “need for different perspectives and voices in our discussions on wildfire”.


Leaders in fire science . . . (from left) Dr Lynda Prior and Associate Professor Fay Johnston, both from the University of Tasmania, with Associate Professor Crystal Kolden, University of Idaho, and Dr Christine Eriksen, University of Wollongong. Photo: Miranda Harman, University of Tasmania

She said the publication of the list had increased exposure in the media of women researchers in this field and helped to bring the researchers together for collaboration.​

The paper had noted “a distinct and critical need to increase the recognition of women” in fire sciences and remarked on the low percentage of women being offered oral and plenary talks at fire science conferences.

Associate Professor Kolden said the compilation did not encompass all current women leaders in fire science. The paper said it was an attempt to identify some of the prospective role models in fire science and “intentionally initiate a scholarly conversation about the perspectives and epistemologies that diversity can bring to the field.”

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