Earth, wind and fire: the effects of vegetation structures on the dynamics of wildfires

Wildfires are a growing threat to ecosystems and communities globally. Improved understanding of the processes which drive wildfires is essential to develop tools to mitigate their impacts. Increasingly prescribed fires – deliberately-set, controlled fires – are used to manage amount of fuel in an ecosystem. This project will deliver the new science required to allow managers to improve the effectiveness of these treatments through a better understanding of the processes which control the burning dynamics of the vegetation.
Specifically, this project will explore the influence of vegetation structures on fire behaviour, focusing on developing appropriate descriptors of the vegetation structures and quantifying the influence of structure on combustion, flow and heat transfer processes in the vegetation at multiple scales. Laboratory scale experiments will be used to develop understanding of the effect of flow, on the burning rate of vegetation and vegetation structures. The key aim being to improve the description of the heat transfer and fluid mechanics processes in terms that are appropriate for use in leading edge Computational Fluid Dynamics fire models.
A key component of this project will involve developing and designing fieldwork experiments in the USA with an international research team with specific consideration gathering data to scale up laboratory results. Willingness to travel, good teamwork skills and a sense of adventure are therefore required.
The position will be based in Edinburgh within the Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh – a multidisciplinary research group spanning the breadth of fire safety – and supervised primarily by Dr Rory Hadden, with additional supervision from Dr Nicholas Skowronski (USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station). Although the position is based in Edinburgh, the project forms a key component in the US Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program-funded project A Multiscale Study of the Coupling Between Flow, Fire and Vegetation – Influence of Vegetation Distribution and Flow on Fire Behavior and Plume Development for Risk Mitigation in Prescribed Burns led by Prof. Albert Simeoni at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The project involves researchers from the US Forest Service, Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy (Florida), San Jose State University, and Los Alamos National Labs.
Please contact Dr Rory Hadden ( for more information.


Further Information: 

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Closing Date: 

Friday, September 3, 2021

Principal Supervisor: 


Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.


Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU and International students

Further information and other funding options.

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