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UC San Diego Wildfire Experts Directory

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wildfire

Last updated August 3, 2021

As California faces wildfire season following drought in much of the state, experts at UC San Diego are available to discuss wildfires, drought, and California climate across an array of topics, including climate science, technology, public health, and economics and policy.

UC San Diego is home to two major programs that aid fire officials in mitigating wildfires. ALERTWildfire is a rapidly-expanding network of high-tech infrared cameras located throughout the West that fire agencies use to confirm locations of wildfires in their critical first moments, collect intel as fires evolve, and sequence evacuations. The WIFIRE Lab at the San Diego Supercomputer Center applies the power of data science and supercomputing to provide fire officials with real-time fire models to help strategize the best approach to containment. 

More information on UC San Diego experts is below. Please reach out to the listed media contacts to arrange individual interviews, or Matthew Nagel (mnagel@ucsd.edu) for more background on programs and experts.

Wildfire Programs

Ilkay Altintas
Chief Data Science Officer, Founder-Director of the WIFIRE Lab at the San Diego Supercomputer Center
Biography | Contact

Jessica Block
Associate Director of WIFIRE Lab
Directs hazards research towards practical use in the field
Biography | Contact

wildfire

Neal Driscoll 
Co-Director of ALERTWildfire, Geoscientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Biography | Twitter | Contact

Falko Kuester
ALERTWildfire team member, Professor of Structural Engineering and Computer Science & Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering; Calit2 Professor for Visualization and Virtual Reality at the UC San Diego Qualcomm Institute
Biography | Contact

Frank Vernon
Seismologist and Director of the High-Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN)
Developing and maintaining internet-connected cyberinfrastructure in remote areas 
Biography | Contact 

Daniel Crawl 
Associate Director of WIFIRE Lab and WorDS Center Bio
Technical lead and product manager
Biography | Contact

Rod Linn 
Adjunct Professor at UC San Diego and Senior Scientist at LANL, Associate Director, Fire Science for WIFIRE program
Three-dimensional coupled fire/atmosphere modeling for wildfires and prescribed fires
Biography | Contact

Raymond A. de Callafon
Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Responsible for data conditioning and data assimilation to improve wildfire progress predictions based on real-time measurements and predictions of weather conditions, wind conditions and wildfire perimeter observations
Biography | Contact

California Climate and Climate Change

Daniel Cayan 
Research meteorologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography 
California climate, climate change connections to wildfire, drought 
Biography | Contact

Rachel Clemesha
Project scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography 
Marine layer clouds and California coastal climate, interplay of marine layer clouds and heat waves
Biography | Contact

wildfire

Sasha Gershunov
Research meteorologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography 
California climate, precipitation and drought, heat waves, marine layer clouds, atmospheric rivers, Santa Ana winds, extreme weather and climate impacts on wildfire 
Biography | Contact

Kristen Guirguis 
Project scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography 
Regional and global climate variability and change, including improving predictions of precipitation extremes in California, off-season heat waves and their impact on snowpack and water resources, and heat related health impacts on populations in California.
Biography | Contact

Julie Kalansky 
Climate scientist and operations manager for the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes and California-Nevada Applications Program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography 
California climate, climate change connections to wildfire, drought, atmospheric rivers 
Biography | Twitter | Contact

wildfire

Nina Oakley
Program manager for the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography 
California climate and connection to wildfires, post-wildfire debris flows 
Biography | Twitter | Contact

David Pierce 
Climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography 
El Nino and La Nina forecasting and impacts, attribution of human-caused climate change in Western U.S. snowpack and streamflow, natural climate variability
Biography | Contact

Marty Ralph
Research meteorologist and Director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps
Western weather, atmospheric rivers, California water supply and reservoir management, Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations
BiographyContact

Morgan Levy
Environmental scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and School of Global Policy and Strategy
Hydrology (movement, distribution and management of water), water resources, drought, water cycle causes and consequences of wildfires
BiographyContact

Jennifer Burney
Environmental scientist at the School of Global Policy and Strategy 
Wildfire smoke impacts to air pollution, human health and air quality 
BiographyContact

Economics and Policy

Judson Boomhower 
Environmental economist, Department of Economics
Wildfire risks and impacts;  the economics and regulatory issues associated with building in high fire hazard areas; the importance of building codes in improving resilience to wildfires; and preventive power shutoffs.
Website | Contact 

wildfire

Richard Carson
Environmental economist, Department of Economics
The economic impacts of natural disasters, including wildfires; and the economic implications of the ties between wildfires and climate change, urban development, electric reliability and evacuation planning.
Website | Contact

Tom Corringham
Climate economist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography 
Understanding the economic impacts of climate change and extreme weather events including wildfires, catastrophic floods, atmospheric rivers, El Niño, and more. 
Biography | Twitter | Contact

wildfire

David Victor
Political scientist at the School of Global Policy and Strategy
Impacts wildfire and other extreme events linked to climate change have on public policy, international climate negotiations and financial markets.
Biography | Contact

Public Health

Rosana Aguilera Becker
Postdoctoral scholar at Scripps Institution of Oceanography 
Impacts of wildfire and fine-particle pollution on public health 
Biography | Contact

Tarik Benmarhnia  
Climate change epidemiologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science
Wildfire and climate impacts on public health; environmental justice 
Biography | Twitter | Contact 

wildfire

Technology

Nikolay Atanasov
Control of fleets of drones for monitoring wildfire conditions
Electrical Engineering Professor at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering
Biography | Contact

Ingrid Tomac
Structural Engineering Professor
Technologies to prevent mudslides after wildfires 
Biography | Contact

Health Care

Jeanne Lee, MD
Director, UC San Diego Health Regional Burn Center
Biography |
Contact

wildfire

Ted Chan, MD
Chair of emergency medicine, UC San Diego Health

Biography | Contact

Jess Mandel, MD
Chief, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, UC San Diego Health

Biography | Contact 

Sydney Leibel, MD, MPH
Assistant professor and pediatric immunologist

Biography | Contact 

Images courtesy of ALERTWildfire; Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego; Erik Jepsen,/University Communications; Brandon Rowe; and WIFIRE Lab, UC San Diego.


UC San Diego’s Studio Ten 300 offers radio and television connections for media interviews with our faculty, which can be coordinated via .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). To connect with a UC San Diego faculty expert on relevant issues and trending news stories, visit https://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/media-resources/faculty-experts.