Position: Resilience to Wildfires Project Leader, Scion
Field: Social research
Lisa Langer is a social research scientist. One of her current areas of focus is social research for rural fire research. This includes work with communities, their resilience and recovery following wildfires, and fire danger warning communication.
Lisa was interested in science and the natural environment at school. At university, she completed an honours degree in forestry science.
Lisa worked in Indonesia for 6 months before participating in a programme involving rehabilitation of degraded wasteland. This took her to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines over a period of 6 years. Lisa then completed a course on social forestry in the United Kingdom.
Back in New Zealand, Lisa initiated research projects that involved a sustainable approach to forestry by considering social and cultural factors alongside environmental and economic factors.
Lisa’s current research is social research in three areas – sustainable use of biowastes, biosecurity and rural fire research. Her skills include community resilience and recovery, community engagement, communication and warnings.
Her role involves developing relationships with key individuals within iwi, national and local government and the community. It means talking and attending meetings and hui on marae. It also involves collaborating with a diverse range of interesting people from other research agencies, universities and rūnanga.
Nature of science
Collaboration with other organisations is an important way for scientists to pool their resources in terms of scientific knowledge and finances to conduct bigger and more substantial projects to get more reliable results. This research is of benefit internationally.
Lisa also works with researchers from other countries. She spent 6 months working with a scientist from the United States studying a small rural community in the South Island that had been affected by a rural fire.
Lisa conducts interviews and community dialogue, runs workshops and manages budgets. She also writes a lot of technical reports, journal papers and newsletters, and prepares presentations describing the results from the research. She attends conferences, meets new people and visits interesting parts of the world.
Social research is an interesting career where you can work with a diverse range of people within a variety of research teams to develop sustainable solutions that do not just consider environment and economics but take social and cultural issues into account.Lisa Langer
Lisa also enjoys tramping/walking, international travel, gardening, reading and her family.
Find out more about the work Lisa is doing investigating the impact of the fire danger sign and of the Bernie advertising to see how well they are working.
Scion have a website for all of their rural fire research publications, tools, software and apps. You can also follow them on twitter #blog and check out their blog site so you can follow along on the science as-it-happens.
In this Radio NZ Our Changing World article and podcast find out how New Zealand scientists, including Lisa, are working to improve the modelling of wildfires, and how Mātauranga Māori can be harnessed to reduce the risk of wildfire.
This article is based on information current in 2009 and updated in 2020.