Fire and Transformation: Building capacity to manage Australian Bushfires

This project focuses on how governance reform can help Australia better confront three fundamental challenges relating to bushfires: risk to life and property, risks to biodiversity, and escalating risks of climate change.

Project goals:

  1. Analyse current capacity for managing bushfires and explore the most effective ways to change governance
  2. Investigate expert perceptions of current bushfire management practice and options to reform governance.
  3. Test how these reforms could affect social, economic, and environmental outcomes.

Bushfires in Australia are becoming more frequent and intense, posing a risk to both ecosystems and communities. There is also a great deal of debate about how to manage fire risk in different ecosystems. Further climate change is projected to exacerbate these challenges.

This project focuses on how changing governance can help Australia more effectively manage these challenges. Governance refers to the way decisions are made as well as who makes them, and encompasses both written laws and policies as well as the unwritten ‘rules’ and routines that affect how people and organisations behave. 

The PhD student will examine two case studies, in southwest Western Australia and the Australian Alps, using a systems-based approach to consider socio-economic and ecological aspects of bushfires. 

The project will build on lessons learned from national and international wildfire management from the broader project and will make original contributions both in terms of methodology (scenario planning) and knowledge (governance reforms). 

The project is particularly focused on trade-offs and synergies between efforts to reduce fire risk, conserve biodiversity, and promote climate resilience.

The candidate will be focused mainly on the structured expert elicitation and scenario planning to understand the present system and explore (and prepare for) future scenarios. This will involve systems modelling, analysing current capacity, developing visuals, and developing and testing governance reforms.

This project is part of an ARC-funded project by the same name.


Suggested readings

  • Clement, S., Gonzalez, A. G., & Wyborn, C. (2020). Understanding Effectiveness in its Broader Context: Assessing Case Study Methodologies for Evaluating Collaborative Conservation Governance. In SOCIETY & NATURAL RESOURCES Vol. 33 (pp. 462-483). DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2018.1556761
  • Clement, S., Moore, S. A., & Lockwood, M. (2016). Letting the managers manage: analyzing capacity to conserve biodiversity in a cross-border protected area network. ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY, 21(3). DOI: 10.5751/ES-08171-210339
  • Mitchell, M., Lockwood, M., Moore, S. A., Clement, S., Gilfedder, L., & Anderson, G. (2016). Using scenario planning to assess governance reforms for enhancing biodiversity outcomes. Land Use Policy: the international journal covering all aspects of land use, 50, 559-572. DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.10.020


Research team leader: Dr Sarah Clement

My research interests focus on environmental governance in the Anthropocene, and understanding how we can make better decisions in an era of rapid environmental and social change. A strong theme throughout my work is how improving governance, as well as planning and policy, can enable better ecological, socio-economic, and democratic outcomes. I am a Senior Research Fellow whose current research project focuses on these themes with respect to bushfires in Australia.

 


Funding and Collaborations

This project is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. The scholarship is provided by UWA.

This project seeks to work on active bushfire planning and policy processes, and welcomes collaboration with government agencies and other organisations.

 

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How to Apply

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
  • Requirements specific to this project -
    • Potential candidates should have a first class bachelors degree, with research-based honours or masters degree (including a substantial thesis).
    • While primarily a social science project, having an interdisciplinary background with some education or experience in natural sciences (e.g. ecology, geography) is preferred.
    • Potential candidates must have excellent skills in written and oral communication, project management, organisation and time management, quantitative and/or qualitative research and a high level of attention to detail. 
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact applications-grs@uwa.edu.au to proceed with your applicatication 

Scholarship specific to this project

Fire and Transformation: Building capacity to manage Australian Bushfires

Bushfires in Australia are becoming more frequent and intense, posing a risk to both ecosystems and communities. There is also a great deal of debate about how to manage fire risk in different ecosystems. Further climate change is projected to exacerbate these challenges. This project focuses on how governance and policy help Australia more effectively manage these challenges. The PhD student will examine two case studies, using a systems-based approach to consider socio-economic and ecological aspects of bushfires. The project is particularly focused on trade-offs and synergies between efforts to reduce fire risk, conserve biodiversity, and promote climate resilience. The candidate will be focused mainly on the structured expert elicitation and scenario planning to understand the present system and explore (and prepare for) future scenarios. This will involve systems modelling, analysing current capacity, developing visuals, and developing and testing governance reforms. This project is part of an ARC-funded project by the same name. The commencement date may be subject to change by negotiated agreement if Covid-19 travel restrictions are impacting arrangements.

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