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NSF Expands Wildland Fire Research Teams and Capabilities Through FIRE-PLAN Awards

September 18, 2023

Wildland fire is becoming an increasingly prevalent and pressing phenomenon nationally and globally. Fourteen new projects, funded through all eight NSF Directorates, will support the development of new teams and new frameworks to meet the challenges posed by the current era of wildland fire. The awards will directly support 18 investigators across 17 different institutions in 11 states, examining the role of natural systems, social systems, and the built environment in wildland fire, as well as expanding the types of knowledge used to understand wildland fire.

The awards are a result of "Dear Colleague Letter: Planning Proposals to Catalyze Innovative and Inclusive Wildland Fire Science through Diverse Collaborations,” which called for proposals focused on catalyzing innovative and inclusive wildland fire science through collaboration among diverse stakeholders and rights holders. A planning proposal is a type of proposal used to support initial conceptualization, planning and collaboration activities that formulate new and robust plans for large-scale projects in current and emerging research areas. These awards address five emergent themes that were identified as critical needs for advancing wildland fire knowledge: (1) to assess the mechanisms underlying a variety of Earth's system feedbacks involving fire, (2) to study fire across temporal and spatial scales, (3) to improve representation of fire in modeling and forecasting, (4) to incorporate social dimensions into wildland fire science research, and (5) to develop innovative and convergent education to generate the researchers and practitioners of the future.

Important topics addressed by this set of awards include: modeling extreme fire behavior during megafires, understanding the cultural uses of fire by Indigenous peoples, examining factors to create wildfire-resilient communities through early detection, constructing digital twins using high-resolution data, and improving coordination of efforts to reduce the negative impacts of smoke on air quality.

These projects target all stages of the wildland fire life cycle. The planning projects address themes of relevance to a wide variety of communities interacting with wildland fire. They bring creative strategies to develop new collaborations with diverse perspectives for building fire science research capacity and improving understanding of the use, causes and consequences of future wildland fires.

A full list of FIRE-PLAN awards made in Fiscal Year 2023 can be found here.

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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