In late June, while preparing for this episode, there were over 500 wildfires burning across Canada. Smoke from the wildfires was affecting millions of Canadians and Americans across a wide swath of North America with air quality indexes reaching extreme levels. On the day the episode was taped (July 5, 2023) there were over 625 wildfires burning across Canada, with 322 of them classified as “out of control”. As of the posting of this episode (July 25, 2023), the number of wildfires burning across Canada had grown to over 1000 with 660 classified as “out of control”. Our timing to have a conversation about wildfires with a prominent Canadian scientist could not have been more relevant.
In Season 6, Episode 4, host Sarah Thorne is joined by cohost Jeff King, National Lead of the Engineering With Nature Program, US Army Corps of Engineers, and Anabela Bonada, Manager and Research Associate at the Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Among other things, Anabela is an expert in forest fires and has been actively involved developing a user-friendly guide for residents to simplify the recommendations in Canada’s National Wildfire Guide. Anabela grew up in the outdoors, which led her to doing a PhD in environmental science and studying forests throughout Argentina. “I have a love for forests. And the pattern there was that many, many forests were affected by fire. You could see the fire scars in the tree rings. So, I’ve had an inclination for fire for quite some time. I had the opportunity to join the Intact Center a year ago where I started working on wildfires.”