Thompson Rivers University

Renowned wildfire expert based at TRU

June 24, 2021

Dr. Michael Flannigan

Dr. Michael Flannigan is the new British Columbia Research Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science at TRU, the university and Province of British Columbia have announced.

This is a monumental announcement for Kamloops and the Interior region to have potentially nationally and internationally renowned research taking place right here. Extreme weather events will increase in number and intensity in the coming years, which makes this research even more critical.

Flannigan is an award-winning researcher and leading expert on wildfire behaviour and landscape fire modelling. Flannigan’s research goals include developing methods to help predict when and where extreme fire weather may arise and exploring the development of early warning wildfire notification systems.

Flannigan will work directly with BC Wildfire Service staff to address challenges related to predicting wildfire activity and behaviour, which will enhance their ability to prepare for and respond to wildfires in the province.

“This is an exciting opportunity to collaborate with the BC Wildfire Service, emergency management agencies and academic institutions,” said Flannigan.

“The wildfire landscape is becoming more challenging and demanding due to climate change, so I’m excited to help shape the future of wildfire prediction and analysis as part of a collective research effort.”

The total cost of the research chair is $5 million, with $3.2 million contributed by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and $1.8 million from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

“TRU is delighted to welcome Dr. Mike Flannigan as the British Columbia Research Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science,” said TRU President and Vice-Chancellor Brett Fairbairn.

“His award-winning expertise will enable TRU to become a national and international leader in the study of wildfire behaviour and landscape fire modelling. The important work of the Interior Universities Research Council, including the University of Northern British Columbia and University of British Columbia Okanagan, has helped make this news possible.”

“The appointment of Dr. Flannigan as research chair reflects three years of collaborative planning in partnership with the City of Kamloops and the provincial government — and TRU is deeply grateful for this investment in the region and our university,” said Associate Vice-President of Research and Graduate Studies Will Garrett-Petts.

“We know that effective disaster response requires government-funded scientific research around climate change, wildfire prevention and flood management.”

Garrett-Petts said Flannigan’s appointment enhances TRU’s research capacity in these areas and provides a heightened level of leadership from a world-class scholar and expert in wildland fire modelling, prevention and mitigation.

Flannigan said an average of 7,000 fires per year have occurred in Canada in the past decade. That results in an average of 2.5 million hectares burning annually — about half the size of Nova Scotia. His research will enable critical data, information and knowledge to help manage these events in the future. The appointment is effective July 1.

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