On Dec. 30, 2021, a grass-fueled wildfire in suburban Boulder County became the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history. The Marshall Fire spurred CU Boulder researchers from across campus—many of them personally affected by the fire—to pivot and apply their expertise to the aftermath. CU Boulder experts are available to discuss their ongoing research and projects related to the fire one year later.
Joost de Gouw, professor of chemistry and fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), leads a research team that has been investigating impacts of the fire on air quality and, in particular, the air quality inside homes in the path of the fire that did not burn. Available in person and virtually (MST) until Dec. 23. From Dec. 23 through Jan. 5, available through email, Zoom and by phone (CEST/GMT+1).
Cresten Mansfeldt, assistant professor of environmental engineering, has led a small team of researchers at CU Boulder to measure impacts on local water quality in the Coal Creek waterway and ecosystem in the wake of the fire. The development of many community partnerships in parallel to this work has also led to the release of a dashboard detailing all of the results from the campaign, which will be updated over the next year.
Brad Wham, assistant research professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, is an engineer who studies how water pipelines and other “lifelines” can maintain their functionality during natural hazards, such as earthquakes and wildfires. In 2022, he co-led a team that studied the impacts of the Marshall Fire on buildings and infrastructure to understand how engineers can mitigate and prevent losses in the future.
Wildfire and climate
Natasha Stavros is a fire ecologist and director of the Earth Lab Analytics Hub at CIRES. Her research focuses on megafires in the North American West and the relationships with climate, human interactions and ecosystems.
Katharine Suding is a professor of distinction in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR). She is working on ways to reduce grassland fire risk without sacrificing important other benefits of grasslands, biodiversity and soil carbon storage, including several pilot projects in the Boulder County area.