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Wildfire Experts: A Journalist’s Guide

Agricultural fire in the Peruvian Amazon. (Kevin Krajick/Earth Institute)

[This list was updated Sept. 15, 2020]

Researchers at various centers and affiliates of Columbia University’s Earth Institute are studying wildfires and their effects around the world, from the physics of how fires start and spread, to the dynamics of disaster response and recovery. Below is a list of experts whom journalists may contact. For further help: Kevin Krajick, kkrajick@ei.columbia | 212-854-9729 or Kyu Lee, | 212-851-0798.


Benjamin Cook is a leading researcher on temperature, drought and climate, and their implications including for wildfires in the western United States. He is based at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. | 212-678-5669

Lisa Dale is a lecturer in the Earth Institute’s Sustainable Development Program who has served in both public and academic positions where she studied wildfire prevention and response in public lands, especially in the U.S. West.

Ruth DeFries is an Earth Institute professor who studies large-scale human interactions with the surface of the earth, including studies of controlled and uncontrolled agricultural fires in Asia and South America, and their effects on greenhouse gas emissions, air quality and public health. | 212-851-1647

Winslow Hansen is an Earth Institute postdoctoral fellow based at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. He studies how climate change and fires affect forests and their ecosystems, and what forests of the future may look like. He has worked in Alaska and Yellowstone National Park.  (Read: Fire May Turn Yellowstone Forest to Grassland by Midcentury)

Robert Field is a research scientist at Columbia University and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He has helped develop fire danger rating systems for Canada, Indonesia and Malaysia. He currently studies the effects of the water cycle on fires, and the cause, fate and effects of emissions from fires. (Read: El Nino and Fire | 212-678-5600

Keren Mezuman is a graduate student at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University. She models how climate variations and global atmospheric circulation affect the start and spread of fires, and particularly how the resulting emissions affect the atmosphere. | 212-678-5669

Andrew Kruczkiewicz of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society uses remote sensing to map out temperature and precipitation patterns and how wildfire risk may intersect with other natural hazards, with an eye to helping authorities plan potential responses.

Jeffrey Schlegelmilch is director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness. He has broad expertise relating to disaster preparedness and response, including their application to wildfires. (Read: The Truth About California Wildfires) |646-845-2318

Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, studies the factors that lead to destructive wildfires, especially in relation to drought and warming climate. A native Californian, he concentrates on the western United States, and is author of several seminal studies on this topic. (Read: Why Humans Can’t Control Wildfires) | 845-365-8193

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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