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Laurier prof to discuss forest fire research at prestigious science meeting
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Douglas Woolford, an assistant professor in Laurier’s Department of Mathematics, will be discussing the results of an innovative study on lightning-caused forest fires at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Vancouver this weekend.
Woolford is part of a team of researchers who have put together a statistical analysis of historical fire data, which suggests the fire season is getting longer in Alberta, and getting more intense in Ontario. The team used various models and analyzed more than 40 years of fire records for both provinces.
“I’m looking forward to discussing this research at the AAAS,” said Woolford. “Forest fires are very complex, random phenomena. It is interesting to look into the past and see how the seasonal patterns in these lightning-caused fire ignitions have been changing over time.”
The seminar Woolford is participating in is titled: “Forest Fires in Canada: Impacts of Climate Change and Fire Smoke.” While Woolford’s research on lightning-caused fires was motivated by climate change, he says it’s very difficult to find a direct causal relationship between the two.
“There is some evidence which suggests that the systems used to detect forest fires has been improving over time,” he said. “So it could be that more fires are being detected. We are just trying to describe the trends we are seeing.”
Woolford expects that both fire management agencies and the forestry industry in Alberta and Ontario will be interested in the results of the study.
“The forest product industry and forest managers need to plan ahead,” said Woolford. “This research can help with resource allocation, budget planning and understanding how to share resources across provinces. It also gives them an idea of how things might be changing over time, because they are interested in forecasting into the future.”
The AAAS is the world’s largest scientific society, and publishes the prestigious journal Science. The annual meeting rotates every year. This year, it will be held Feb. 16 to 20 in Vancouver. For more information about conference, visit: www.aaas.org/meetings/.