ISER’s Jennifer Schmidt, Assistant Professor of Natural Resource Management and Policy, visited the area damaged by fire in Anchorage this summer with members of the Rabbit Creek Community Council to observe the damage and support their efforts at preventing fires in their south Anchorage community.

Schmidt is a member of the EPSCoR team* looking at the effects of fires and how to treat vegetation in order to prevent fires, especially in areas of changing habitat. This summer, she and her students surveyed vegetation in Anchorage and Kenai. In some areas, such as Rabbit Creek, they are seeing an increase in grassy areas which are highly flammable early in the fire season.  The expansion of grasses on the Kenai Peninsula is one of the reasons fire season now starts a month earlier.

Schmidt and Hezekiah “Ky” Holland are surveying vegetation

Mapping vegetation patterns on the ground help communities develop fire risk models and response plans as well as provide a comparison to visual data collected above the ground.

This summer, Schmidt also met with representatives of the Municipality of Anchorage to discuss the Municipality’s Fire Risk Model, which was last updated in 2008.

*Alaska NSF (National Science Foundation) EPSCoR (Established program to stimulate competitive research) improves Alaska’s scientific capacity by engaging in research projects supported through National Science Foundation and state funds. EPSCoR recently commenced “Fire and Ice,”  a five-year project to study climate-driven changes to Alaskan wildfire regimes and coastal ecosystems. Jennifer Schmidt is part of the Boreal Fires project within Fire and Ice.