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11 January 2019

King's awarded £10m to launch Wildfire Research Centre

The Department of Geography is set to collaborate in the opening of the Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society thanks to a £10m grant awarded by the Leverhulme Trust.

Amazon fire

King’s College London in partnership with Imperial College London, Royal Holloway and the University of Reading were one of three winners for the 2018 Leverhulme Research Centre awards. The Leverhulme Trust have granted £10m for the partnership to open the Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society.

The Centre is led by Dr Voulgarakis of Imperial College London and the Leadership Team at King's comprises of King’s Professor Martin Wooster, Professor of Earth Observation Science and an expert on satellite Earth observation and the quantification of landscape fire; and Professor David Demeritt, Professor of Geography, an expert in the interdisciplinary area of nature-society relations.

The establishment of the Centre has come in at a vital time, with 2018 being an extraordinary year for wildfires worldwide with tragedies and unprecedented media attention related to landscape burning in California and the Mediterranean. During the last El Niño climate anomaly, fires in the drained tropical peatlands of Southeast Asia were responsible for some of the worst large-scale air quality ever recorded. Fires are also agents of ecological maintenance, and their use as a landscape management tool is integral to the livelihoods of millions worldwide.

Professor Martin Wooster said, “King's College London is an internationally-recognised centre of excellence for the study of landscape fire and nature-society interactions, and for the use of Earth observation satellites in quantifying and understand these phenomena. Our Leverhulme Centre will allow King's and our partner institutions to harness this expertise over the next decade, ultimately to better understand, predict and help manage the changing relations between wildfires, environment and society worldwide.”

The Centre’s work will be organised into four strands focusing on major topics and regions of interest including Fire in the Tropics; Fire in the North; Fire at the Wildland-Urban-Interface’, and Fire in Global Systems. But these will not be pursued in isolation. The Centre’s collaborative way of working is designed to ensure that insights from one region or discipline will inform others.

Professor Gordon Marshall, Director of the Trust, said, “Leverhulme Trust Research Centres are a major investment in discovery-led inquiry at a time when funding for fundamental scholarship is under great pressure. They are our vote-of-confidence in the quality of the UK’s outstanding researchers. Each Centre will embrace multi-disciplinary and international collaborations designed to bring the highest calibre of expertise to bear on these exciting areas of inquiry. The Trust Board is delighted to add these new awards to its portfolio of long-term research investments.”

In this story

Professor Martin Wooster

Professor of Earth Observation Science