Rethinking fire with data analytics and systems design | MIT News

Scientific evidence that’s been accumulating for decades points to ways in which suppressing fire leads to unhealthy forests.

Scientific evidence that’s been accumulating for decades points to ways in which suppressing fire leads to unhealthy forests.

Rethinking fire with data analytics and systems design

MIT frameworks are helping the U.S. Forest Service find solutions to fire.

MIT Sloan Executive Education
February 12, 2020

Yes, you read that correctly — suppressing fewer fires.

Scientific evidence that’s been accumulating for decades points to the ways that suppressing fire leads to unhealthy forests. Ongoing research by the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, shows how short-term gain from suppression can condition the landscape for future, even-greater fires burning in extreme conditions, and MIT Sloan Executive Education has had a hand in translating that thinking into action.

Matthew Thompson is a research forester at the U.S. Forest Service, where he works in the Human Dimensions Program at Rocky Mountain Research Station in Colorado and focuses on the human dimension of natural resource problems. An engineer by training, with a PhD from Oregon State University in forest engineering, Thompson has worked with the agency for about a decade. Core to his work is understanding how best to catalyze desired changes in fire manager behavior in terms of individual fire events and over time. He believes that changes in fire manager decisions regarding response strategies and tactics will be necessary to change fire outcomes.

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