University of California researchers are looking to make the most out of a bad situation by looking at new research opportunities that have developed as a result of the wildfires. Personnel at a UC facility that suffered significant losses in the Mendocino Complex Fire will now be shifting much of their focus to fire-related research projects.
“In the post-fire recovery there’s a great chance for a lot of scientific learning about what happens on broad landscapes when fire happens, because of the fire having passed through here,” said Interim Director at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center John Bailey. “We’re in this great place where there’s a really solid picture of what there was before and then now we’re in the mode of tracking what has really happened in the fire.”
The facility is in California’s north coast region about two hours directly north of San Francisco, where the Mendocino Complex Fire came through and burned about 3,000 acres of the research center. “We lost a couple of research structures out on the site as well as our domestic water system,” Bailey noted. “There’s definitely some research projects that have been set back, where their plots have been burnt over.”
Bailey expressed disappointment in the loss of ongoing projects that were being worked on at the facility, but also noted the new research opportunities that will be available as a result of the fire. “It should be an interesting year. Right now, there’s a lot of soot and ash and broken pipes and burnt fences but I think that there’s some really good opportunities for a lot of really relevant learning about fire and the California landscape,” said Bailey.
The biggest priority at the moment at Hopland is clearing up roads and getting other things back into operational order. Once that is completed the staff will begin working on what can be accomplished with the circumstances at hand. “We’re already looking to convene a group of researchers here in mid-October to go out and take some observations on the site before the winter rains come and to start stimulating research ideas,” Bailey said.
Listen to Bailey’s interview below.