Fire risk attribution using remote sensing

Enhanced wildfire risk attribution through the coupling of flammability and 3D structure observations with remote sensing

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

There are three drivers of fire behaviour: fuel, weather and topography. High-resolution weather predictions have been improving, and technology advances in lidar allow us to map topography and forest structure in greater detail than ever before. However, our poor understanding of fuel hazard and lack of fuel data is a critical gap in our knowledge of fire behaviour.

Fuel is the only element of wildfire behaviour that human intervention can readily manage to reduce wildfire risk. Therefore, it is critically important that fire agencies understand how fuels change in space and time (fuel dynamics) and the impact of these changes on forest flammability. There are two important components of fuels: fuel moisture and fuel structure. Fuel structure is the arrangement of vegetation elements across the vertical profile of a forest system. Broadly speaking, the more fuel there is, and the more connected this fuel is, the more flammable the landscape. Fuel moisture is the amount of water in the fuel relative to its dry mass and it dictates how readily fire will burn through a fuel, and the energy released in the process.

While recent research has demonstrated the ability of remote sensing techniques to measure fuel structure and moisture. These observations do not readily combine into metrics for fire behaviour models. This PhD project will consider three main knowledge gaps:

  1. the inability of 3D remote sensing approaches to delineate between live and dead vegetation;
  2. how to map the 3D distribution of live fuel moisture;
  3. capacity to scale this information to a fire simulation, including the moisture content of both live and dead fuel moisture, and fuel structure and connectivity

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Luke Wallace


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Knowledge of remote sensing and practical skills in image processing
  • Experience in the collection and processing of photogrammetric and laser scanning data
  • Background in environmental science, ecology, fire science or environmental geography
  • Ability to complete field work as required

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Programming skills (ie. In python, R, matlab)

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Luke Wallace, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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