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Feeling the Heat: Bushfire and Hobart’s insurance risk

Held on the 29th Oct 2019

at 6pm to

, Southern Tasmania

Add to Calendar 2019-10-29 18:00:00 2019-10-29 19:30:00 Australia/Sydney Feeling the Heat: Bushfire and Hobart’s insurance risk US scientist Dr Alexandra Syphard and an expert panel discuss what climate change means for insurance risk. Stanley Burbury Theatre, University Centre, Sandy Bay Campus
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Stanley Burbury Theatre, University Centre, Sandy Bay Campus


US scientist Dr Alexandra Syphard and an expert panel discuss what climate change means for insurance risk.


  • Dr Alexandra Syphard - Sage Underwriters, Conservation Biology Institute & San Diego State University
  • John Fisher - City of Hobart
  • Dr Chloe Lucas - University of Tasmania
  • Dr Kate Booth - University of Tasmania
  • Sandra Whight - Tasmania Fire Service
  • Hosted by Professor David Bowman - Fire Centre Research Hub

Hobart’s wooded hills, signature features of the city, have long exposed it to a high risk of bushfire. Catastrophic conditions in 1967 and 2006 forewarned of the dangers to come and now, as the effects of climate change grip, they are ever increasing. How should Hobart prepare itself for the likelihood of bushfires on its doorstep? And what does the increased risk mean for the insurance industry and for the coverage Hobartians can expect to receive?

Dr Alexandra Syphard, Chief Scientist at innovative US insurer Sage Underwriters, presents a public lecture with serious lessons for Hobart: Why do houses burn in California wildfires? The state of the science and the future of the insurance industry across rapidly changing landscapes.

The event will be opened by Lord Mayor of Hobart, Councillor Anna Reynolds.

The lecture will be followed by an expert panel discussion and audience Q&A.

About the Speaker

Syphard picDr Alexandra Syphard is Chief Scientist at Sage Underwriters. Dr Syphard also serves as an Associate of the Conservation Biology Institute and Adjunct Professor at San Diego State University. As a researcher, she has spent more than two decades analysing the ecological and social drivers, and the impacts of landscape change, particularly focusing on wildfires in California and other Mediterranean-climate ecosystems. Alexandra uses mapping, statistical, and modelling approaches to investigate how and why change has occurred in the past, how it is likely to occur in the future, and how different policy or management decisions may impact ecological and social well-being.

Dr Syphard’s extensive research on wildfire risk to communities forms the scientific basis for underwriting homeowners’ insurance in fire-prone ecosystems. Her work also focuses on the interactions among wildfire patterns, land use change and urban growth, climate change, vegetation dynamics and biodiversity, invasive species, and plant species’ range shifts.

About the Panel  
John Fisher – Manager, Bushland, City of Hobart

John has worked as a public land fire manager, professional firefighter and conservation manager for 35 years across three states and the ACT. He was Deputy Chief Officer for the Australia Capital Territory Rural Fire Service and Regional Manager for the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service in Central Queensland. He holds a Bachelor of Science with postgraduate qualifications in emergency management and in frontline leadership.

Dr Chloe Lucas – Research Fellow in Human Geography, University of Tasmania

Chloe began her career making documentaries about science and landscape history for the BBC, before starting up an environmental communication consultancy for non-government organisations, research organisations and government. Chloe's PhD research explored the factors underlying increasingly polarised responses to climate change. She is currently working with Dr Kate Booth on an Australian Research Council Discovery project examining how householders experience home insurance for extreme weather events, including bushfires and floods.

Dr Kate Booth – Senior Lecturer in Human Geography and Planning, University of Tasmania

Kate’s research is motivated by an interest in place and places, and she is particularly interested in how insurance is co-constituted in everyday life. This research has theoretical and practical outcomes for climate, disasters and society.

Sandra Whight – Director of Community Fire Safety, Tasmania Fire Service

Sandra has over 20 years’ experience in the management and understanding of the role of fire in the landscape. Sandra is committed to prevention and mitigation activities that reduce the impact of fire on people, communities and the environment.

Facilitated by Professor David Bowman, Director, Fire Centre Research Hub, University of Tasmania.

Refreshments from 5.30pm.