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Keynote Speaker

Clem Sunter

Renowned South African strategist, visionary and author Clem Sunter will deliver the keynote address at the Wildfire 2011 conference. Sunter will discuss how to plan for and manage the risk of catastrophes such as runaway wildfires.

Sunter’s talk on “A Model for Catastrophic Risk Management” will outline how local governments and other organisations have previously responded to catastrophes with varying degrees of success, and a methodology for preparing for and coping with disasters.

Sunter was chairman and CEO of the Gold and Uranium Division of Anglo American Corporation for years when it was the world’s largest gold producer. He is renowned for his scenario planning, which described two possible roads for South African in the 1980s, one leading to a negotiated political settlement to end the apartheid era and the other a civil war. Until recently, Sunter was chairman of the Anglo American Chairman’s Fund, rated the premier corporate social responsibility fund in South Africa. Since 1987, he has authorised 14 books, some of them bestsellers, and has been mobilising the private sector in the war against HIV/Aids.

Plenary Speakers

Bruce Brockett

Bruce Brockett is an ecologist who has researched, monitored and managed protected areas and resources for 27 years.  He has a special interest in using fire to achieve biodiversity objectives in savanna environments like the Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa. His experience with prescribed burning has been hard won. After igniting a “point-ignition” in the Pilanesberg in 1989, it developed into a fire that spread to 10 000 hectares.  Afterwards Brockett took heart from the words of the US industrialist Henry Ford who said: "Failure is the only opportunity to start again more intelligently."  Protecting the animals and plants of South Africa has been his lifelong passion and, after nearly three decades, he continues to be involved in fire management.

Naomi Brown

Naomi Brown has been the CEO of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) since December 2006. Naomi is also a Board member of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC). Naomi took up the role of Director Community Safety at the Country Fire Authority (CFA) of Victoria in 2003. She had previously worked in her home state of Western Australia with the WA Fire and Emergency Services (FESA) for five years. She spent time there as Executive Director Community Safety and also Executive Director State Emergency Service and Volunteer Marine Rescue. She has a Diploma in Teaching, Graduate Diplomas in Special Education and Business and an Australian Institute of Company Directors course.

Susan G Conard
Susan G Conard retired from the US Forest Service in 2008 after 25 years.  During her career she was a fire researcher and research project leader at the Riverside Fire Laboratory in California(1983 to 1996).  Following this, until her retirement, she was the Forest Service National Programme Leader for Fire Ecology Research in Washington, DC.  She now holds an affiliate faculty position at George Mason University, where her work focuses on interactions between fire and climate.She is also an Emeritus Ecologist with the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, continuing collaborative research on fire effects in Siberia that she started in 1993 while still at the Riverside Fire Lab. Conardedits the International Journal of Wildland Fire and is President of the International Boreal Forest Research Association, and was recently elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in recognition of her scientific contributions and leadership. She has a BA in environmental studies from Antioch College and MS and PhD degrees in ecology from the University of California, Davis. Her research has focused on integration across scales and disciplines, fire regimes and fire effects, fire behaviour, application of remote sensing, and interactions of fire with climate, with an emphasis on the boreal forests of Siberia.

Bill de Groot

If ever there was a born fire fighter it would be Bill de Groot, a fire research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service (CFS). He is coordinator of the International Union of Forest Research Organization’s Forest Fires Unit and serves on the North American Forest Commission Fire Management Working Group, the GOFC-GOLD Fire Implementation Team, and the International Tropical Timber Organization and the Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Enhancing Environmental Services Programme advisory committee. He is leader of the Fire and Climate Change team at the Great Lakes Forestry Centre in Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario. de Groot started his career as a seasonal fire fighter in 1979, working and studying until he completed a diploma in Forest Technology and later a BSc (hons) in Forestry. By 1985 he was employed by the CFS as a fire technology transfer specialist. de Groot’s fascination for forestry and fire remained insatiable and in 1998 he completed his PhD in Forest Science. His work now focuses on fire behaviour and fire danger rating research, modelling and applications.

Professor Dr. Johann Georg Goldammer

Johann Georg Goldammer is head of the Global Fire Monitoring Centre (GFMC) in in Freiburg, Germany. At Freiburg University and United Nations University he is serving as professor for fire ecology and fire management, through which he has performed fire ecology and management research and fire management and policy advice in 45 nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America since the 1970s. Goldammer also serves as coordinator the UNISDR Wildland Fire Advisory Group and the Global Wildland Fire Network. Since 1988 he has been editor of the UNECE-FAO International Forest Fire News and is in charge of lead of the government- and UN-mandated UNECE-FAO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire. The main objective of the work of the groups operating under UNISDR and UNECE is to enhance fire management capacity through international sharing of intellectual and technical resources. In 2001 the GFMC, under Goldammer’s leadership, was awarded the United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction and, in 2008, the “Golden Fire Swatter” (El Batefuegos de Oro) by Spain. In 1999 Russia awarded him with the Medal of the Russian Government for "Saving and Multiplying the Forest Resources of Russia". Ten years later the Russians bestowed on him the Memorial Medal of the Federal Forest Agency. The Mongolian State University of Agriculture awarded Goldammer an Honorary Doctorate in 2007.

Dr Felician Bakamaza Kilahama

As a 21-year-old forestry student at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in 1973, Felician Bakamaza Kilahama, now director of Forestry and Beekeeping for the Tanzanian government, set out on a journey to save his country’s trees. Uncontrolled firewood collecting, charcoal making and furniture and home building were decimating Tanzania’s indigenous timber and with it a way of life. Dr Kilahama completed his doctorate in 1994 through the University of Wales, focusing on what Tanzanian farmers knew about conservation and the productive use of land for agriculture. Today his division, which is part of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, manages 13 million hectares of protected natural forests including 16 industrial forest plantations in Tanzania. His responsibility is to ensure forest and woodland resources are properly used, to encourage beekeeping as a livelihood and to protect the environment.

Harsen Nyambe Nyambe

Harsen Nyambe Nyambe is the senior  programme officer for natural resources and wildlife management in Botswana. His major responsibility is coordinating and facilitating the development of policy and legal frameworks and their accompanying action plans and projects for the SADC region in fisheries, forestry, trans-frontier conservation areas and wildlife. He has a Master of Science degree from Arizona State University and is currently completing his PhD through the University of Cape Town.
Nyambe’s interest in conservation was ignited as a child growing up in Ibbu, a village on the Chobe floodplain in the Caprivi region of Namibia. “I saw how game populations were dwindling,” he says, “and I knew I wanted to play a part in their conservation.” He travels extensively throughout southern Africa serving on SADC project steering committees that focus on the preservation of natural resources. He regularly presents at regional and international meetings on climate change with a special focus on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). Wildfire is a constant challenge for the region’s forestry, trans-frontier conservation areas and wildlife which are all part of his portfolio. “The main focus of these sectors is to control fire and where possible suppress it to limit its impact on infrastructure, natural resources and human life,” he says, “However, its use in the management of land and land-based resources is indispensable.” SADC’s technical committee on forestry has raised fire as a major cross-border issue. “What I enjoy most is the privilege of working with people from all SADC member states and beyond, and dealing with natural resources which are key to regional integration, livelihoods and poverty reduction.”

Jeremy Russell-Smith

A photograph of Jeremy Russell-Smith working on his laptop watched by an inquisitive wild Cassowary in the rainforests of northern Queensland in Australia epitomises this ecologist’s deep love for the great outdoors.  For over 30 years he has worked in the monsoon rainforests and fire-prone savannahs of northern Australia and neighbouring Asian regions. The focus of his research has been on tropical fire ecology and conservation. He has researched Aboriginal fire and land management practices, medicinal plant conservation and landscape-scale fire management applications. Recently his focus has been on exploring greenhouse emissions abatement and carbon sequestration offsets from savannah burning. This is especially relevant for developing commercial opportunities for Aboriginal land managers. In 2007 he was awarded the inaugural Australian Eureka Prize for Innovative Solutions to Climate Change. Today Russell-Smith co-ordinates the applied fire management research programmes of the Northern Territory government’s rural fire management agency and the North Australian Indigenous Land & Sea Management Alliance.

Jerry T Williams

Jerry Williams is a retired national director of fire and aviation management for the United States Forest Service. He has fought, used, and studied wildland fire for over 40 years. He holds a Master's Degree in forest fire sciences. Although now retired, he continues to write, speak, and advise on wildland fire management topics in the US and abroad. He has served on the command side of national incident management teams and has chaired multi-agency coordination groups dealing with some of the United States’ most significant wildfires. While with the Forest Service he introduced new ideas and authored several papers and reports that have strategically positioned US federal wildland fire programmes and policies. He became the Forest Service National Director of Fire and Aviation Management in 2001. Working with the Kennedy School of Government, the US military’s Special Forces Command, and fire experts from across the country, he began looking into the mega-fire phenomenon in 2003. Williams retired from the national fire director’s position, in the US government’s Senior Executive Service, in 2005. He was most recently a volunteer with the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, focusing on an assessment of internationally significant mega-fires.

Dr Sergiy Zibtsev

Dr Sergiy Zibtsev, Head of International Programmes for the Ukraine’s Institute of Forestry and Landscape Park Management, is an international expert in the ecology of radiation-contaminated forests. Much of his life's work has been in the exclusion zones surrounding Chernobyl – site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. He is an associate professor and senior researcher in forest ecology at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine in Kiev. In 2004 and 2005 he was a visiting scientist and a Fulbright scholar at Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Since 2008 he has been a member of the UN Economic Commission for Europe’s team of specialists on forest fires.