PhD Candidate, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland
Michelle Ward is pursuing her Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences at the University of Queensland, where she conducts applied conservation research with Jonathan Rhodes, Hugh Possingham, and James Watson. Ward is lead author on a study, recently published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, analyzing the widespread impacts of the 2019-2020 Black Summer megafires in Australia on habitats for vertebrate animals. She is currently working on a plausible framework, method, and case study for developing an action plan for threatened species in Australia. This cross-disciplinary research links methods from ecological modelling, economics, remote sensing, and political science. Ward earned her M.S. in Environmental Management from the University of Queensland, where her masters research focused on valuing ecosystem services to align environmental management with the Sustainable Development Goals in the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area. She volunteers for Wildcare Australia, predominately rescuing and rehabilitating native, orphaned mammals. She is also an IUCN WCPA Commission Member and am working closely with the Green List Specialist Group, President for the Society of Conservation Biology (Brisbane chapter), and research assistant for the National Environmental Science Programme.
Michelle is speaking at
Watch the prerecorded talks for this session beginning on Oct. 13. (Video embargoed until 4:00 p.m. ET 10/20/20.) Then submit your questions for the speakers, and tune in here on Oct. 20 to watch answers from Williamson and Shawn-Fletcher and to hear live from Michelle Ward in Brisbane and Merritt Turetsky in Boulder. (Whova mobile app users, look for the YouTube link in the session description.)
This past summer, nearly 100,000 square kilometers of land went up in flames in the Australian bushfires—a fire event larger than any in the past 10,000 years on that continent. The devastation released some 400 million tons of CO2, killed perhaps a billion animals, and damaged many Aboriginal Australian communities.
Then in June, as temperatures soared into triple digits north of the Arctic Circle, fires swept through the taiga and tundra of Siberia and within a month surpassed the record-setting summer of 2019, raising concerns that already vulnerable peatlands and permafrost could be lost. A continuation of this trend could have dire consequences for Arctic ecosystems and some Indigenous communities, as well as worrisome climate impacts.
In this session, two Aboriginal Australian scientists and a wildlife ecologist who has done extensive surveys of the burned area will present new results from their research on the paleohistoric significance of this year's bushfires, the misguided logging and forest-management practices that fueled the fires, the far-reaching damage the mega-fires wreaked on wildlife habitats, and ways that Aboriginal cultural land-management practices should be brought back to reduce the risk of recurrence.
Then the director of the University of Colorado's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research will update us on the fire situation in Siberia, Alaska, and Canada and her research on how forest fires are interacting with climate change and Arctic warming, permafrost, peatlands, and taiga and tundra ecology in ways that threaten Alaska Native and First Nations peoples and the ecosystems on which they—and all of us—depend.
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