Wildfire in Montana: Past, Present and Future
- Friday, November 13, 2020 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm
- Online via Webex
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Montana State University, formerly MSU Wonderlust, is partnering with the Bozeman Public Library Foundation to present a talk on “Wildfire in Montana: Past, Present and Future” at a Nov. 13 Friday Forum. The event will be presented online via Webex from 12:00 and is free and open to the public.
David McWethy, assistant professor in the Department of Earth Sciences in the College of Letters and Science at MSU, will discuss the factors responsible for increasing wildfire activity in the West and describe some of the future challenges presented by wildfire in Montana and the Gallatin Valley. Cathy Whitlock, Regents Professor in Earth Sciences at MSU, will provide introductory remarks.
Fire is an important process that has shaped Western ecosystems for millennia. However, over the past several decades, fire activity has been increasing across the West. Recent fires have destroyed thousands of homes, hundreds of lives have been lost and persistent smoke from these fires has created hazardous air quality across the West. Changing climatic conditions are enabling record-setting fire seasons throughout the Western U.S. This creates sustained periods of hot, dry weather that are conducive to fire, as well as warm conditions that are drying out fuels and creating explosive conditions when ignition occurs. At the same time, a growing number of homes and other structures are built in landscapes with abundant fuels, increasing the danger from fires to human health and safety.
Fire scientist David McWethy is an alumnus of MSU, earning his Ph.D. from the Department of Earth Sciences. He has studied fires and best management practices for years. Some of his recent work has considered ways for towns and cities to prepare for wildfires by clearing potential fuels from around buildings and utilizing controlled, prescribed burns to avoid building up a cache of dry vegetation that then leads to conflagration. McWethy received a Fulbright grant to research wildfires in Chile and teach at the University of Concepcion from 2015-2016. He also participated in the eight-year, $4 million National Science Foundation Wildfire Partnership in Research and Education (WildFIRE PIRE) project.
Over the course of her nearly 40-year career, Cathy Whitlock has produced a broad body of groundbreaking research that has led her to national and international recognition for her scholarship and leadership in the field of past climate and environmental change. She has published more than 190 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on the topics of vegetation, fire and climate history in leading scientific journals. In 2011, Whitlock co-founded the Montana Institute on Ecosystems and served as its director from 2011 to 2017. She was the lead author of the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment, a report released by the Institute on Ecosystems that details climate trends and their consequences for Montana’s water, forests and agriculture. Whitlock is currently the lead investigator on the WildFIRE PIRE project and MSU co-investigator for recent National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) projects in Montana.
Advance registration is required. For more information or to register, please visit the OLLI at MSU website at montana.edu/wonderlust/register. Upon registration confirmation, participants will receive an email with the Webex link and instructions to join the program.
Friday Forums are a partnership between the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at MSU and the Bozeman Public Library Foundation. OLLI at MSU is a program of Academic Technology and Outreach (ATO) at Montana State University. ATO works across MSU to support and advance our land-grant mission through unique and innovative opportunities for outreach and engagement.