Applications are now closed to participate in our virtual innovation lab to create a strategic wildfire research roadmap and develop new cross-disciplinary collaborations!

Applications are now closed.


As wildfire regimes and our relationships with fire continue to change, a convergent and strategic research approach is needed to understand how wildfires and living systems interact and to forecast these dynamics in a warming world. This five-day innovation lab will bring together diverse research communities to generate creative strategies and new research collaborations aimed at improving understanding and prediction of the causes and consequences of future fires. This lab will develop a coordinated roadmap for the direction of this research area. Further, the lab will lead to formation of interdisciplinary teams poised to advance scientific questions about how fire operates as a fundamental process on Earth and how life responds and evolves as a consequence. In addition to the roadmap, participants will have the opportunity to contribute to short papers that shape the direction of this developing research area.

The event will be held online, and will take place May 17-19, 21, and 26, 2021. —

Applicants must commit to participating for the entire duration of the Wildfire and the Biosphere Innovation Lab if selected as a meeting participant.

There will also be some required prework and light background reading/viewing.

The Challenge

Advances in methods to characterize wildfires and wildfire regimes and interactions with living systems are rapidly changing. However, these advances often occur in relative isolation due to current funding mechanisms. Wildfire research in the past decade includes tools like Earth observing satellites and aircraft, establishment of long-term research sites and persistent observatories, investment in plant trait and genomic databases, and the development of paleoecological records spanning continental to global scales. The main discovery has been that wildfires and wildfire regimes are incredibly diverse with equally diverse consequences to living systems ranging from molecular pathways to the globe. We have insufficient knowledge about the consequences of wildfire on living systems. The main limitation is linking insights gained from different methods and approaches into a comprehensive and holistic understanding.

A convergent approach is needed to overcome these challenges and make significant intellectual and societal advances. Such an approach could leverage existing programs that fund research related to wildfire and its consequences. Through developing a coordinated effort, significant advances can be made. Collaborations between researchers in diverse biological fields and quantitative scientists (e.g. mathematicians, computer scientists, Earth scientists, and engineers) with relevant expertise could lead to better approaches to interrogate and predict wildfire behavior and ecological consequences using available data, in situ and remote sensing, and new experimental systems.

The Innovation Lab

This lab will bring together PI-level wildfire researchers working in a variety of fields including physiological, population and community, ecosystem and macrosystem ecology; evolutionary processes; systematics and biodiversity science; geomorphology/land surface processes; hydrology; biogeochemistry; computational and modeling sciences; engineering; atmospheric sciences; remote sensing; computer science; and those exploring the human dimensions of wildfire. Researchers working with cyberinfrastructure, with facilities such as NEON and NCAR, NASA satellites and campaigns, with research networks such as LTER, CZO, AON, Ameriflux, ForestGeo, etc. are welcome, as well as those working on education and outreach initiatives and workforce training development. Above all, innovation lab applicants should be interested in forming new collaborations and developing innovative approaches to address challenges associated with studying wildfire and its impacts.

At the W&B Innovation Lab, interdisciplinary teams will work together to ideate and develop a roadmap for how to tackle selected challenges in this field. Through the course of the two days, teams will form, pitch and refine plans for interdisciplinary strategies, priorities, projects, campaigns, and innovative approaches that advance scientific questions related to wildfire and living systems. Participants will also have the opportunity to contribute to a series of papers and an overall roadmap aimed at shaping the direction of this developing research area.

Who Should Apply

We encourage researchers and educators at the PI-level with diverse expertise across the continuum of wildfire research: biology (molecular to global scale), engineering, Earth science, physical science, social science, and computer science to consider how your experience could help to fundamentally transform our understanding of how strategic and convergent research could improve our understanding of how wildfires and living systems interact and forecast these dynamics in a warming world.

Irrespective of expertise, we are most interested in new, innovative ideas and original thinking that arise from new collaborations between people of diverse backgrounds and varying experience.

Approximately 100 applicants will be selected to participate in the W&B Innovation Lab on the basis of the interests, expertise, and other characteristics solicited in the application. Most participants are expected to be academic faculty, from early career to senior investigators. Original thinkers from outside academia are also encouraged to apply. When selecting participants, consideration will be given to balance across a range of diverse disciplinary experience and expertise. All participants should be willing to engage in frank discussion and assessment of ideas in a collegial and professional fashion. To facilitate open sharing, all meeting discussions will be considered a private communication and not to be shared outside of the meeting, unless approved by the contributor. W&B Innovation Lab guides, in consultation with the NSF Staff, will review applications and select the final list of participants. All research-related application information will be kept confidential.

At this time there are no funding opportunities associated with this lab, but opportunities for submission of project proposals across NSF and other federal agencies will be highlighted during the lab.

Meeting Outcomes

The meeting has a dual purpose. First, priority areas in wildfire research will be identified and articulated as a Strategic Fire Research Roadmap. This document will be written in a collaborative manner, and will describe promising research ideas and opportunities. Second, the W&B Innovation Lab will provide an ideal setting for rapid generation of short papers that shape the direction of this developing research area. These papers may be suitable for publication in peer-reviewed research journals.

Why and How to Apply

If you want to explore critical wildfire questions, and you want to participate in a stimulating and open exchange with a diverse, multidisciplinary range of researchers, we invite you to submit an application. If applying, please be prepared to answer questions about yourself, your work experience, your research focus, and why you are interested in and qualified for the lab. Applications will be reviewed by wildfire researchers and NSF staff. Research-related information will be kept confidential.