A research collaboration investigating the cause of the devastating Black Summer bushfires has been awarded the prestigious 2021 NSW Environment, Energy and Science (DPIE) Eureka Prize for Applied Environmental Research.
The NSW Bushfire Risk Management Hub – including researchers from the University of Tasmania, University of Wollongong, University of New South Wales and Western Sydney University – was recognised for its outstanding research and innovation at the awards ceremony on 7 October.
The Hub was commissioned by the NSW Bushfire Inquiry to help it understand what happened during the 2019-20 fires and why they differed from previous fire seasons.
The University of Tasmania team contributing to this critical research are fire ecologists Dr Grant Williamson and Professor David Bowman, and PhD students Todd Ellis and Nicolas Borchers.
The Hub’s findings addressed major knowledge gaps relating to droughts, fuel dynamics, and the social and environmental impacts of the fires — directly influencing many of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry recommendations and setting the future direction for fire management.
University of Tasmania lead researcher Dr Grant Williamson said winning the Eureka Prize was great recognition of the vital work of the Bushfire Hub to help keep our communities safe.
“After the disastrous 2019/20 fire season in south-eastern Australia, we were tasked with rapidly gathering data and providing answers to a range of questions about the causes and impacts of the fires,” Dr Williamson said.
“These included assessing the contribution of drought, weather, forest management and land use to fire behaviour, and exploring how could we use this unique fire season to understand key drivers of impacts to settlements.
“It’s very exciting to see the NSW Bushfire Hub team’s hard work and contributions acknowledged at this level, and we’re hopeful our work understanding the drivers of fire risk contributes to better management and policy.”
The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the areas of research and innovation, leadership, science engagement and education.
(Pictured): Professor David Bowman, Nicolas Borcher, Dr Grant Williamson and Todd Ellis.