Bushfire season: experts available for media comment | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Bushfire season: experts available for media comment

Bushfires are already putting South East Queensland under the pump this summer, with worrying climatic conditions forecast.

The University of the Sunshine Coast has experts available to talk on a variety of topics in connection with safeguarding people, animals and property, as well as fire prevention, management and monitoring. Academics and researchers include:

Dr Romane Cristescu 

Area of expertise: Koalas, wildlife rescue using detection dogs and thermal imaging drones

Dr Romane Cristescu 

Comment: After the 2019/2020 megafires, we saw for months the devastating impacts on wildlife, particularly koalas, as we teamed up with wildlife rescue groups to locate and rescue koalas across Queensland and NSW. We used detection dogs and thermal imaging drones to help find these camouflaged animals. Our efforts showed koalas were struggling in the burnt landscape, and also underlined the mental health impact that the fires had on people, who at times felt forgotten as soon as the fires were controlled. Our work shows that wildfires have long-lasting impacts on humans and wildlife. Our koala detection dog Bear was able to bring a bit of hope and comfort in highly challenging times. As much as we hope we won't be needed this year, we are bracing for an alarming summer again.

Availability: Sunshine Coast campus



Dr Sam Van Holsbeeck

Area of expertise: Chief Investigator of UniSC citizen science project National Bushfire Resilience Network (NOBURN)

Dr Sam Van Holsbeeck

Comment: We want to empower people to use their mobile phones to collect information that will help predict bushfire hotspots and minimise their impact. The NOBURN app encourages people out-and-about in their local forests to take photos and tell us more about the forest and fuels. That data is processed by artificial intelligence to help predict the probability, severity and burn area of potential bushfires.

Availability: Sunshine Coast campus


Associate Professor of Geospatial Analysis Sanjeev Srivastava

Associate Professor Sanjeev Srivastava

Area of expertise: Burned area mapping, mapping wildfire fuel distribution, fuel condition

Comment: These are challenging times for all the agencies involved with managing wildfires because the Bureau of Meteorology officially declared that an El Niño event is underway, and in the past, such event has been associated with wildfires. The vastness of Australian flammable natural resources and fuel accumulation, as well as their dryness, are likely to lead to wildfires with higher intensity covering larger geographic areas.

Availability: Moreton Bay Campus, one day a week at Sippy Downs




Dr Clare Stawski

Clare Stawski

Area of expertise: Ecological physiology of terrestrial mammals, in particular bats and small marsupials

Comment: We still know little about how individual animals survive fire or the barren landscape it leaves behind. Lack of cover makes post-fire habitats ideal hunting grounds for predators such as cats, foxes, and raptors. So not only do animals need to survive the fire itself, but also the aftermath of a fire that leaves the landscape altered for many months and more often years. Our research has focused on how small mammals, such as bats and marsupials, can survive in post-fire environments, particularly by using torpor which is an energy saving mechanism. We are also investigating whether animals return to their normal daily routines once the environment has started to recover.

Availability: Sunshine Coast campus


Jane-Louise Lampard

Area of expertise: Human health 

Jane-Louise Lampard

Comment: Importance of keeping doors closed to prevent inhalation of smoke, having an evacuation plan, and the importance of going early. Air quality, the impact of smoke on the lungs, what happens to the embers or ash getting into the water or onto crops. Can comment on aspects of the natural or built environment that impact human health in disaster management. Chemicals used in firefighting that remain in the environment that affect human health.

Availability: Sunshine Coast, by request.



Media enquiries: Please contact the Media Team media@usc.edu.au