What do tropical fire ecologists do when they choose to experience a European winter for their holidays? Apart from relaxing on Deutsche Bahn trains watching snow-clad landscape whiz past, immersing themselves in decades of history (conveniently summarised by walking tour guides in the major cities), realising that Christmas traditions make sense in a cold climate, treating themselves to sublime musical performances and hope that they remember how to ski? They visit the Global Fire Monitoring Centre in Freiburg, in southern Germany.
From left - Pete Sheldon (GFMC), Bronwyn Myers (CDU, RIEL), Johann G. Goldammer (GFMC), Oyunsanaa Byambasuren (GFMC), Dick Williams (CSIRO)
RIEL’s Bronwyn Myers and CSIRO’s Dick Williams are tropical fire ecologists – Bronwyn working in the eastern Indonesian Province of Nusa Tenggara Timur and Dick working on both savannah fires in northern Australia and fires in the alpine country of south-eastern Australia. Bronwyn and Dick visited the Global Fire Monitoring Centre in December 2012 at the invitation of the Director, Dr. Johann Goldammer.
We had an energetic exchange of ideas and concepts. The wide ranging topics included:
- Black carbon from forest fires and its effect on albedo in the Arctic;
- Managing fire in the presence of unexploded ordnance in Germany – drip torches from military tanks instead of Toyotas;
- Tree rings to unravel fire history and tree growth in the forests of Mongolia,
- Appropriate practice for savanna fire management in eastern Indonesia in the face of contradictory national policy;
- Alpine landscapes that burn – the curious case of fire in Australia’s high country;
- Future fire regimes in Australia – what it means for risk management.
View from the Black Forest
We took Johann’s advice and took a walk in the Black Forest, and Johann treated us to a guided tour of Freiburg followed by a traditional dinner of beer and sausage. We were enriched by the visit and bowled over by the generosity of our hosts.