Establishing a Wildfire Resilience Collective

May 13, 2024

By Hannah Meier, PhD Student, School of Biological Sciences

Photo above, from left to right]: Tegan Lengyel, PhD (Anderegg lab), Elizabeth Williams, Hannah Meier (DYCE and Reimer lab), Rebecca Senft (Aprecido lab), Annie Carlile, (Bowling lab).

In January, my teammates and I dedicated 24 hours of our weekend to immerse ourselves in the pressing issues of wildland fire resilience in the West. Joining the Wilkes Center Climate Solutions Hackathon offered a valuable break from the routine grind of a first-year PhD student in biology.

Hannah Meier

Our team’s final project, establishing the Wildfire Resilience Collective ended up winning first place. However, the true highlight was the collaborative effort among students from various majors, urging us to tackle the issue from diverse perspectives and glean insights from each other.

Our team consists of PhD students from the Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology in the School of Biological Sciences, and one undergraduate, a pre-med student studying Biomedical Engineering. The education and interests of each team member provide a wealth of foundational knowledge, but, most importantly, we share a common goal of utilizing our research to inform policymakers and stakeholders in shaping land use decisions, which motivated our participation in the Wilkes hackathon.

But what exactly is a hackathon? While often associated with coding challenges, its essence lies in rapidly developing solutions within a condensed time frame. Our team’s focus was far removed from coding. We aimed to grasp the impact of wildfires on community resilience and the mechanisms behind fostering such resilience.

Central to our discussions were inquiries into the meaning of resilience, both in ecological and communal contexts. We landed on a definition of resilience as a community’s or ecosystem’s ability to absorb changes while maintaining established relationships, both within and across organisms.


Read the rest of the story at the Wilkes Center