Dr. Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz
Enhancing community wildfire resilience in British Columbia, Canada
I am an interdisciplinary researcher with both research and professional experience from Oregon (USA), England, and Canada. My interests in fire center around how different perspectives and knowledges of fire shape decision-making through time, and the ways these decisions alter social-ecological systems and affect our capacity to coexist with fire. In my research, I draw from social-ecological systems and resilience theories and employ qualitative inquiry (including interviews and document analysis) and dendrochronology (tree-ring) methods.
I am currently a postdoc researcher working on a collaborative project with the First Nations' Emergency Services Society and BC Wildfire Service to enhance First Nations' capacity for wildfire response. Our research aims to highlight the existing expertise and experiences in wildfire response of First Nations in BC. Building on this expertise, we will identify a range of potential opportunities for First Nations who want be more engaged in wildfire response, and help connect community priorities to these opportunities.
Wildfire is a complex agent of change affecting both human and ecological communities worldwide. Our ability to understand its complexity is constrained by ineffective wildfire governance, including institutions, policies and decision-makers that operate in knowledge “silos”. These silos are often entrenched in worldviews and disciplinary backgrounds, such as natural science, social science and Indigenous knowledge, which limit knowledge-sharing and the co-development of research questions to address complex challenges that arise from wildfire. Overcoming the gaps created by these silos requires holistic and collaborative research aimed at understanding the legacies of change driving wildfires complexity. Recognized as an imperative research need in BC after the unprecedented wildfire seasons in 2017 and 2018, this PhD project uses a transdisciplinary, collaborative research framework to explore how fire governance has shaped the role of fire in a social-ecoogical system through time. To do so, I am using a mixed-methods approach to (1) analyze wildfire governance in BC through time (using document analysis and semi-structured interviews with wildfire policy experts); (2) co-develop a process with Indigenous Elders for identifying wildfire-related landscape values (using place-based open-ended interviews); and (3) characterize the historical fire regime in dry forests of BC (using dendropyrochronology). Through this collaborative research, I am work directly with T'exelc Elders (Williams Lake First Nation), archaeologists representing the Williams Lake First Nation, community forest managers (particularly the Williams Lake Community Forest), and local and provincial government officials. My PhD research was supervised by Dr. Lori Daniels and Dr. Shannon Hagerman who leads the Social-Ecological Systems Research Group.
Learn more about my research In a video for the National Post here and
In my profile and presentation for the UBC Public Scholars Initiative and, for a bit more about my story, In an article written for the UBC Trek Alumni Magazine.
Copes-Gerbitz, K., Daniels, L. D., and Hagerman, S. M. (2022) The contribution of Indigenous stewardship to an historical mixed-severity fire regime in British Columbia, Canada. Ecological Applications. e2736.
Copes-Gerbitz, K., Hagerman, S. M., and Daniels, L. D. (2022) Transforming fire governance in British Columbia: An emerging vision for coexisting with fire. Regional Environmental Change. 22-48.
Copes-Gerbitz, K., Spearing, W., and Daniels, L. (2022) Transforming tree-ring research through collaborations with Indigenous peoples. PAGES Magazine 48-49.
Hoffman, K., Christianson, A. C., Dickson-Hoyle, S., Copes-Gerbitz, K., et al. (2022) The right to burn: barriers and opportunities for Indigenous-led fire stewardship in Canada. FACETS 7(1).
Copes-Gerbitz, K., Dickson-Hoyle, S., Ravensbergen, S., Hagerman, S.M. and Daniels, L.D. (2022) Community engagement with proactive wildfire management in British Columbia, Canada: Perceptions, preferences, and barriers to action. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change. 5:829125. Fires in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI): An Emerging Global Phenomenon Threatening Modern Society Special Issue
Dickson-Hoyle, S., Hagerman, S. M., Ignace, R., Ignace, M., Daniels, L. D., and Copes-Gerbitz, K. (2021) Walking on two legs: a pathway of Indigenous restoration and reconciliation in fire-adapted landscapes. Restoration Ecology doi: 10.1111/rec.13566. (10% contribution)
Copes-Gerbitz, K., Hagerman, S. M, and Daniels, L. D. (2021) Situating Indigenous knowledge for resilience in fire-dependent social-ecological systems. Ecology and Society 26(4).
Brookes, W., Daniels, L. D., Copes-Gerbitz, K., Baron, J., and Carroll, A. L. 2021. A disrupted historical fire regime in central British Columbia. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
Copes-Gerbitz, K.*, S. Dickson-Hoyle*, L.D. Daniels, and S.M. Hagerman. 2020. BC Community Forest Perspectives and Engagement in Wildfire Management. Report to the Union of BC Municipalities, First Nations’ Emergency Services Society, BC Community Forest Association and BC Wildfire Service. 49 pp. *joint first author
Copes-Gerbitz, K., Fletcher, W., Lageard, J., Rhanem, M., and Harrison, S. P. (2019) Multidecadal variability in Atlas cedar growth in Northwest Africa during the last 850 years: Implications for dieback and conservation of an endangered species. Dendrochronologia, 56:125599.