Fire Science Expert to Speak at UM
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: April 5, 2023

Fire Science Expert to Speak at UM – There are three ingredients needed for fire: fuel to burn, hot and dry conditions, and an ignition source. People are changing all three, according to expert Dr. Jennifer Balch, director of the National Science Foundation’s newest data synthesis center, the Environmental Data Science Innovation & Inclusion Lab at the University of Colorado-Boulder.


Balch will give a talk titled “Our Changing Fire” at the University of Montana at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, in Interdisciplinary Science Building Room 110. The talk is the 2023 Mike and Mabelle Hardy Fire Management Lecture. People can register to watch the lecture online at


“The number of wildfires and the area burned has increased over the past several decades in western U.S. forests by 1,500%,” Balch said. “We’ve seen some of the most expensive wildfire seasons in the U.S. in just the past five years, costing over $16 billion. We need to learn to live with fire, again. But how? Ultimately, we need to burn better and build better.”


Balch is an associate professor in the CU Department of Geography and a Fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Her research aims to understand the patterns and processes that underlie disturbance and ecosystem recovery – particularly how people are shifting fire regimes and the consequences. Her work spans from temperate regions to the tropics and leverages big data from satellites to social media. She has conducted research in the field of fire ecology for over 20 years and has lit a few experimental burns to understand the consequences of altered fire regimes.


Past Hardy Fire Management Lecture lectures have featured Jim Hubbard, retired deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service; Dr. Ronald Wakimoto, UM professor emeritus of forest fire science; and Tom Zimmerman, a retired program manager with the Wildland Fire Management Research, Development and Application Program of the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station. The lecture was made possible by the generosity of Mike and Mabelle Hardy.

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