Sunshine Coast citizen scientists to help predict the severity of future bushfires in our region with Federal Government funding

Sunshine Coast citizen scientists will help scientists to predict the probability, severity and burn area of future bushfires as part of a Federally funded project led by the University of the Sunshine Coast.

USC has received a $498,426 grant to deliver a new “NOBURN” mobile app designed to engage the public in science by offering the opportunity to participate in a research project with a real national impact.

Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said that the project has the potential to make our region safer.

“Though much of our community was spared the worst of the Black Summer bushfires, parts of our region were impacted. If we don’t act to monitor and understand local risks, then next time it could be much worse.” Mr Wallace said.

“Bushfires will always be a risk on the Sunshine Coast, but with the help of Sunshine Coast locals, the University of the Sunshine Coast, and the Federal Government’s support we can gather the data we need to mitigate against that risk and to reduce the impact bushfires have when they do happen.” he said.

This project involves the design and implementation of NOBURN, a citizen scientist app to capture photo evidence of fuel-loads, dryness and structure of forests. Artificial intelligence tools will be used to predict the probability, severity and burn area of potential bushfires based on images submitted. The outcomes will assist in disaster resilience, preparedness and response to bushfires.

“USC’s grant will enable citizen scientists on the Sunshine Coast to work hand in hand with the community and make a direct contribution to a scientific research project of true national significance.” he said.

In the 2019-20 fire season, over 10 million hectares burnt, destroying over 2000 homes. The cost to Australia was estimated to run into the billions and has had a devastating impact on the agriculture, forestry and tourism industries. There are currently limited resources to support accurate prediction and effective response to large-scale fire events.

“To make this project a success we will need as many locals as possible to sign up and get involved, so please, keep an eye out for the NOBURN app this year!” Mr Wallace said.

The grant is being delivered through the Australian Government’s Citizen Science grants, which provide grant funding of between $150,000 and $500,000 for projects that support community involvement and participation in scientific research.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter said the grants will help raise community awareness of science, while allowing participants to make significant contributions to research.

“These grants continue the government’s commitment to making science relevant and accessible to people of all ages across the nation, and complements our support for events like National Science Week and institutions like Questacon,” Minister Porter said.

“The projects supported in this round of the program are in four priority areas: disaster resilience and preparedness; environmental change; cyber security and artificial intelligence; and food and agribusiness. These all have practical applications and benefit to Australia.” Citizen Science grants are supported under the Inspiring Australia – Science Engagement Programme (IA-SEP).

More information about the projects funded under this grant can be found at: https://www.business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/citizen-science-grants/grant-recipients-round-2

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