NSW is a global bushfire hotspot, with the state government recently announcing a $28 million investment in the R&D of new bushfire technology.
One researcher already contributing to bushfire R&D is Carrie Wilkinson – a PhD student at the University of Wollongong.
Looking to apply her research skills to a real-world challenge, Carrie applied for a PhD internship with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment (DPIE) through the Australian Postgraduate Research Intern (APR.Intern) program and caught their eye with her unique skillset.
Specialised in human geography and qualitative data analysis, Carrie was the perfect match.
“We wanted to bring in specialist expertise to develop a new methodology for evaluating the influence of previous prescribed burning on wildfire control operations,”
Donald MacDonald, Senior Project Officer at the NSW DPIE
“During the control of wildfires, previous prescribed burning activity can be critical in the development of the containment strategy, yet there is no standardised method for collecting, and evaluating, eyewitness accounts,” Donald explained.
Over 5-months, Carrie reviewed case study literature and collaborated with her Academic Mentor, Dr Katharine Haynes, to develop a method for collecting and classifying eyewitness data for statistical analysis. This involved conducting, analysing and reporting on staff interviews, which required approval by the University of Wollongong’s Human Research Ethics Committee.
“The internship provided invaluable workplace experience and contacts to progress my career outside of academia. The opportunity to work with such a world-class team, to refine my research skills and become familiar with government systems, has been instrumental to my work-readiness and career progression,”
Carrie Wilkinson, former PhD Intern (now Project Officer) at the NSW DPIE
The research collaboration was a win-win for all. Carrie successfully applied for an ongoing role within the NSW DPIE, which she says would not have been possible without the internship experience.
“Carrie’s project results have significantly benefited our agency. The outputs are expected to be utilised in the coming fire season as part of an operational trial – we are very pleased with the internship result,” said Donald.
Carrie was the DPIE’s fourth PhD student placement through the APR.Intern program.