Key Messages: What UBCO researchers are working on

On Wed May 1, we joined Dr. Lesley Cormack (Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UBC Okanagan) and three researchers as they shared their work on resiliency in the face of wildfires.

Each year, Okanagan communities are tested by climate change with new challenges on the horizon. We have all felt the impacts, but what is less clear is how we can adapt our community so the impacts aren’t felt as strongly. 

Photo credit: UBC Okanagan

Building resiliency in our communities allows us to adapt to our constantly changing circumstances. Post-secondary institutions like UBC Okanagan play an important role in increasing community resiliency.

Through groundbreaking research, we're learning ways to live with some of our biggest challenges – including wildfires. Three UBCO researchers presented some of the work they are doing in the face of wildfires and these changing environments, particularly as they relate to communities like ours in the Okanagan.

Photo credit: UBC Okanagan

Dr. Matthieu Bourbonnais -  Assistant Professor in UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science  

Matthieu is a former wildland firefighter. In his work, he has created sensors that can be deployed in fire susceptible areas to give real-time information on conditions that lead to wildfires and track the development of wildfires. These sensors gave valuable information during the McDougall Creek wildfire; Matthieu spoke to fire-adapted landscapes and how fire is a natural part of the ecosystem.

Along with the sensors providing real-time information, Matthieu is also working on a program to train people about the importance of controlled burns. In the lab, research needs to be done to better understand how various plants respond to fire (how quickly they burn). In fire resilient communities, that information can be used on an individual level to inform landscaping decisions.

Dr. Sumi Siddiqua - Professor in the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering and Geo-Environmental Engineer 

Sumi is working to produce novel and cheap thermal insulation for construction, made of rammed earth, wood fly ash and clay. In her research, she is studying the properties of materials after fire exposure which allows us to better understand if structures are safe post-fire.

The work of inventing materials with high post-fire strength also includes reducing the CO2 footprint of materials by incorporating industrial by-products as additives, and through carbon capture and storage in the building materials. Sumi's research work is collaborating with the City of Kelowna and BC Housing.

Andreas Rutkauskas - Lecturer in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Critical and Creative Studies

Andreas is a photographer who focuses his work on landscapes that have been impacted by wildfires. Where much media of wildfires have a focus on blazing fires, Andreas' photos of the aftermath of fires show regeneration and renewal. This perspective allows us space to process the grief associated with wildfires and offers a reflection on our resiliency. A vital part of building resliency this work shows hope after a fire.



UBC Okanagan Campus is a member of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.