Dr Trent Penman, Lecturer

Trent is a bushfire risk modeller interested in all aspects of bushfire management. His work covers a range of theoretical and applied aspects of bushfire behaviour and management.

The main focus of his research is optimising management expenditure to reduce the risk of detrimental fire impacts on people, property and the environment.  In addressing this complex issue, it is essential to undertake studies of ignitions, fire behaviour in response to  fuels and weather, fire suppression, environmental impacts of fire, financial costs of fire management and human behaviour at the interface.

A secondary focus of Trent’s work is examining landscape drivers of fire behaviour.  Involving fire researchers from Australia and the USA, this work seeks to the relative influence of the four main drivers of fire extent – fire weather, ignitions, biomass and fuel moisture.  Results of these studies are being used to determine the extent to which humans influence fire regimes.

Trent’s other role at The University of Melbourne is teaching undergraduate and masters level subjects. He is currently co-ordinating Fire in the Australian Landscape and Bushfire Planning and Management and teaching into Bushfire and Climate, Bushfire and Biodiversity and Forests in a Global Context.


Dr Alex Filkov, Research Fellow

Dr. Alexander Filkov received his PhD in Ecology (Physical and Mathematical Sciences) in 2005 from Tomsk State University, Russia. After completing his PhD he worked as Associate Professor at the same university. His research interests encompass wildfire behaviour and risks, WUI and extreme fires. During previous decade he conducted laboratory experiments on fuel ignition and fire spread, participated in the development of a deterministic and probabilistic system for the prediction of forest and peat fire hazard, as well as in the simulation of fuel drying and kinetics. Dr. Filkov has more than 15 peer-reviewed publications on topics listed above. He participated in, and organized several field experiments in Russia and the USA.


Dr Jane Cawson, Research Fellow

Jane is a forest scientist whose research examines bushfire behaviour and management, and its effects on vegetation and soils; her current focus is on understanding flammability in wetter forests. She started her career within fire and emergency management in the Victorian government where she gained experience in fire operations, predicting fire behaviour, fire ecology and post-burn monitoring. Her PhD, completed in 2012, examined the impacts of planned burns on soil hydrology. Jane’s current research is based in the forest and lab where she is experimenting with new methods for measuring fire behaviour and fuel properties. She is motivated to produce research that contributes to improved fire management to benefit people and the environment.


Dr Thomas Duff, Research Fellow

Tom’s work involves looking at problems involving the management of bushfires and fire risk.  These include looking at questions of fire behaviour, ecology and risk.

Before transitioning to research, Tom trained and worked as a forest scientist.  Working as a forester he gained experience in a range of areas including the management of Australian Eucalypt forests (with a particular focus on bushfire), the development of tree breeding programs in northern Vietnam and production forestry.  He then spent a number of years working as a firefighter, both as a volunteer and as a professional.  His experience has shaped my subsequent research – he views research challenges with an eye to solving practical problems of landscape managers.

Tom’s PhD was focused on understanding how patterns of natural plant species relate to the conditions where they grow.  The methods of analysing this were essentially empirical – using statistical methods to draw signals out of inherently noisy natural data.

In his postdoctoral research, his experience in fire management and his skills in data analysis have been extended into a range of fields.  He currently works on projects involving landscape fire risk, fire simulation, model performance, forest ecology and fire behaviour.   This allows him to work in a broad range of disciplines including operational research, ‘big’ data analysis, ecology, meteorology, remote sensing and management science.


Brett Cirulis, Research Assistant

Brett Cirulis completed the Masters of Forest and Ecosystem Science in 2013.   Since then, he has been working as a research assistant in the Fire Behaviour and Management group.    The focus of Brett’s work up until 2016 was related to the research and development of the PHOENIX RapidFire bushfire characterisation model.  In particular, the improvement of the fuel inputs through the development of a state-wide fuel classification model.   His work is now focused on further model development as well as performing simulation based risk analysis for the Bushfire Natural Hazard CRC and DEWLP/INFFER prescribed burning projects.


Dan Ababei, Software Developer

Dan Ababei is a software developer who has been writing scientific software with a bias towards innovative dependence modelling and risk analysis tools. He has written code covering topics such as marginal and multi-dimensional probability distributions, dependence structures (especially Bayesian networks, also vine-copulas), uncertainty analysis and structured expert judgement. Some of the fields where Dan’s software frameworks are being or have been used are aviation, stratigraphy, food safety, oil processing plant safety, flood defence, volcanology, climate change (anthropogenic and orbitally forced), infrastructure and wildfire modelling. He is the owner of a little software firm named LightTwist Software and will sometimes try to teach various people C++ and software architecture.

Dan’s mission at the University of Melbourne is to build a flexible modular platform for fire regime simulations, which brings together replaceable subsystems modelling fire propagation, ignitions, fuel/vegetation, weather, planned burns, suppression, disruption, water quality, infrastructure, biodiversity, etc for simulations spanning decades.


Derek Chong, Software Developer