Free Public Lecture on Maui Wildfires, Feb. 6
A free public lecture on Maui wildfires will take place this week at the Pacific Whale Foundation’s classrooms at the Māʻalaea Harbor Shops on Feb. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m.
The presentation, titled “Wildfire on Maui: the History, Threat, and Our Collective Responsibility,” will address why wildfire destruction in Hawaiʻi has increased about 400% over the past several decades. Discussion will be led by Clay Trauernicht, Wildland Fire Specialist at University of Hawaiʻi Cooperative Extension.
“Over the past decade, an average of more than 1,000 wildfires burned more than 17,000 acres each year in Hawai‘i, with the percentage of total land area burned comparable to and often exceeding figures for the fire-prone western United States,” said Dr. Trauernicht.
“During my presentation, we’ll use fire science and a bit of history to tackle the how and why of the 400% increase in areas burned by wildfires in Hawaiʻi,” said Dr. Trauernicht. “We’ll also look at the consequences it has for our watersheds and nearshore ecosystems.”
“The short story is that fire on Maui and other islands is a problem we’ve largely created,” he said. “It is, therefore, one of the few ‘natural’ disasters we can actually avoid. We’ll consider our options to reduce fire risk and impacts on Maui and how the urgency to take action is increasing under a changing climate,” said Dr. Trauernicht.
Attendees are invited to share their questions, experiences and ideas about wildland fires on Maui at the conclusion of Dr. Trauernicht’s presentation.
Dr. Trauernicht earned his Ph.D. in Plant Science at the University of Tasmania and an MS in Botanical Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He completed his BS in Biology at the University of Denver. In addition to many years of botanical and ecological fieldwork, he has published and presented on plant community ecology and population modeling, geospatial analyses of fire and species occurrence, and the use of local knowledge to adapt management strategies and inform research needs.
His current focus is on improving wildland fire management in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific with a strong emphasis on science extension and communication. Dr. Trauernicht is the project leader for the Pacific Fire Exchange, part of the Joint Fire Science Program’s nationwide Fire Science Exchange Network. He is currently working with the Pacific Island Climate Change Cooperative to extend climate science resources to Cooperative Extension programs throughout the Pacific Island region.