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Burning Innovations: The developments and future of bushfire research

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Event description


This year marked 20 years since the Canberra bushfires tore through the city’s western suburbs, taking lives and destroying hundreds of homes. And, it has only been three years since Australia experienced one of the deadliest bushfire seasons globally. For Canberra, a city built within a bush and grass landscape, bushfires are an inevitable part of life for our community. However, developments and innovations in bushfire research are allowing us to better predict periods of high fire risk, as well as fire and ember spread, and in turn better protect our community.

Burning Innovations: The developments and future of bushfire research will showcase to government, industry and the ACT community, research by the UNSW Bushfire Research Group. 

Join us to learn about dynamic fire propagation, extreme fire development, severe fire weather events, fire behaviour modelling, ember spread, bushfire risk at the wildland-urban interface, climate change impacts on bushfires, and more. This is your opportunity to chat one-on-one and ask questions of some of the academics conducting the most ground-breaking research into bushfires and to understand how fundamental research is solving our big challenges.

This event is being hosted as part of Uncharted Territory. It is open to all, free to attend, and canapes and drinks will be provided. 

The Research

 Watch the video below to learn more about the research that will be presented at Burning Innovation: The developments and future of bushfire research.

The Speakers

Commissioner Georgeina Whelan AM, CSC and Bar - Commissioner, ACT Emergency Services Agency

Commissioner Georgeina Whelan is the Commissioner of the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA), responsible for overseeing the delivery of Fire and Rescue, Rural Fire, State Emergency and Ambulance Services to the ACT. Commissioner Whelan has held this position since August 2019 and has led Canberra through some of its toughest challenges, including the 2019/2020 Black Summer Bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is the first female to hold the Commissioner position and prior to taking on the role worked as the Chief Officer for the ACT ESA.

Commissioner Whelan began her career in the military , joining as a Training Officer in 1985. As an Officer in the Australian Army, Commissioner Whelan deployed to East Timor in 1999 as the Operations Officer of the 1st Health Support Battalion and to Banda Aceh, Indonesia on Operation Sumatra Assist in command of the ANZAC Field Hospital in 2005. Commissioner Whelan had an over 30 year career in the Army, reaching the rank of Brigadier, and continues to be active in the ADF community.

Commissioner Whelan was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) in 2004, was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2006 and was awarded a Bar to her Conspicuous Service Cross in the 2016 Queens Birthday Honours List. She was named ACT Telstra Business Woman of the Year in 2015. She holds post graduate qualifications in Business Management, and Defence and Strategic Studies and is the patron of the ACT Down Syndrome Association and sits on several research and advisory boards.

Professor Jason Sharples - Director, UNSW Bushfire Research Group

Professor Jason Sharples is a mathematical scientist and internationally recognised expert in dynamic bushfire behaviour and extreme bushfire development. He currently leads several Australian Research Council (ARC) and Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) projects and is involved in international wildfire research projects, which consider various aspects of extreme and dynamic bushfire propagation, the development of large conflagrations and bushfire risk management. 

Professor Sharples is the Director of the UNSW Bushfire Research Group which aims to improve understanding of the fundamental processes that drive extreme bushfire development and their relation to firefighter and community safety. He was an expert witness in the 2014 Coronial Inquiry into the Wambelong Campground bushfire, the NSW Independent Inquiry into the 2019/20 bushfires and the 2020 Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements. 

Professor Sharples is a key contributor to the international dialogue around wildfire modelling and risk management. His research has been adopted in national firefighter training materials and into the operational procedures of bushfire management agencies such as the NSW Rural Fire Service. He is also an active member of the ACT Rural Fire Service.

Professor Jason Evans - Professor, UNSW Climate Change Research Centre

Professor Jason Evans is a Professor at the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre. His research involves general issues of water cycle processes over land, and how we can change them, largely through changes in land use and changes in climate. He focuses at the regional (or watershed) scale and studies processes including river flow, evaporation/transpiration, water vapour transport and precipitation.

The main tools Professor Evans uses in his research are models including regional climate models, land surface and hydrology models, which are informed by in-situ date as well as satellite data and analysis of stable isotopes of water.

Professor Evans is a Science Advisory Team member for the World Climate Research Porgrammes (WCRP) CORDEX program, and coordinator of the AustralAsia CORDEX Domain, a major program of the WCRP. He is also the editor of the Journal of Climate.

What to expect

The UNSW Bushfire Research Group will present their research in a number of different formats, including posters, videos, and interactive displays. Researchers will be present at the event, giving you the opportunity to talk with them directly and ask questions about their research.

We will be joined by guest speakers, ACT Emergency Services Agency Commissioner, Georgeina Whelan, who will share her insights into bushfires, their impact on the ACT, and the importance of building partnerships between academic institutions, government and industry to better protect our community. Professor Jason Sharples, Director of the UNSW Bushfire Research Group will also speak at the event, highlighting the important research being produced by the UNSW Bushfire Research Group and its real world applications.

This event is being hosted as part of Uncharted Territory. It is open to all, free to attend, and canapes and drinks will be provided. Don't forget to bring your business card to go in the running to win the lucky door prize!


If you have any questions about this event, please don't hesitate to get in touch with UNSW Canberra Events on or on (02) 5114 5279.

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