Promoting Public Impact: The Marshall Fire Grants

Photo by Glenn Asakawa/CU Boulder.

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By Gretchen Minekime


Six grants and one sponsorship totaling $30,500 have been awarded by the Office for Outreach and Engagement, in partnership with the Research and Innovation Office (RIO) and the Natural Hazards Center, to support community-engaged scholarship connected to the Marshall Fire. In addition to the faculty members, staff  and partners involved, these grants fund the engagement of three graduate and 19 undergraduate CU Boulder students.

Some of the below projects will be highlighted at the Community-Engagement Scholarship Showcase on October 22. The showcase is being presented by the Office for Outreach and Engagement as part of RIO’s Research & Innovation Week (October 17-22) and will immediately follow a CU on the Weekend lecture by Lori Peek, director of the Natural Hazards Center. Audience members will have the opportunity to speak with CU Boulder faculty, staff and students conducting projects related to the implications of climate change.

Bouncing Forward: Supporting Boulder Valley School District Classrooms to Overcome Grief through Action
Katya Schloesser, Education and Outreach Associate, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)  

This project builds on the successful Hazard Education Awareness & Resilience Task Force project (HEART Force). HEART Force inspires and empowers Colorado middle and high school teachers and their students to act as the change agents for building community resilience against natural hazards. HEART Force curriculum provides place-based data analysis of local wildfire risk, mitigation and history, includes a scenario-based role-play game, and guides students to design community resilience action projects. To address teachers’ and students’ grief and social-emotional well-being, HEART Force works with Dr. Welton-Mitchell from the Natural Hazards Center—a specialist in natural-disaster-related trauma. 

Decisions about Resilience in the Aftermath of the Marshall Fire
Courtney Welton-Mitchell, Research Associate, Natural Hazards Center and Assistant Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health, Colorado School of Public Health 

An NSF-funded team is gathering survey, interview, public meeting and document data to understand the decision-making process after the Marshall Fire, explicitly focusing on understanding individual and collective decisions related to resilience and disaster recovery. This group led the Marshall Fire Unified Research Survey, bringing together teams of over 40 researchers from around the U.S. to build and disseminate a survey that can answer critical scientific questions and reduce the burden on disaster-affected communities. The team will share preliminary findings via a technical report, webinar and presentation series.

Landscape Architecture: Landscapes as a Means of Community Healing
Emily Greenwood, Teaching Assistant Professor, Program in Environmental Design

Environmental Design faculty and students will guide fourth-graders from Boulder Valley School District in designing interpretive trail modifications for the Dirty Bismark Trail in South Boulder (western edge of the Marshall Fire burn scar) using healing-centered engagement techniques. 

Marshall Fire Story Project
Kathryn Goldfarb, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology

The Marshall Fire Story Project will create an archive of stories from individuals affected by the fire. The archive will contribute to historical records and be available to the Boulder County community and researchers. The Project will also capture hundreds of GoFundMe campaigns created in response to the fire. These campaigns are critical community-created sources because they include a narrative of affected individuals and their needs, updates documenting ongoing financial hardship and experiences post-fire, and provide insight into the role of community crowd-sourced funding.

The Marshall Fire’s Impact on Affordable Housing Availability
Sabrina Sideris, Director, The INVST Program
Jennifer Fluri, Chair, Department of Geography 
Abby Hickox, Instructor, Department of Geography 

The CU Boulder Affordable Housing Research Initiative (CU-BAHRI) interviews Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), including those whose housing was affected by the Marshall Fire. Undergraduate research assistants will gather the recorded conversations and produce episodes of a podcast exclusively focusing on the Marshall Fire and its likely impact on an already-stressed housing market. 

Engaging Wildland Urban Interface Neighborhoods in Becoming Wildfire Prepared
Burton St. John III, Professor, Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design

Faculty and students from the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design will support two Boulder Homeowner Associations (HOAs) in the wildland-urban interface to build awareness of what proper wildfire mitigation looks like at the neighborhood level. They will develop messages and strategies to encourage residents to act on and implement mitigation techniques. 

Sponsorship: Supporting Well-Being within the Veterinary Community
Leslie J. Irvine, Professor, Department of Sociology

Area veterinary clinics report that staff members still experience trauma from the deceased and injured animals they encountered after the Marshall Fire. This support program serves approximately 100 animal welfare professionals affected by the fire and is in partnership with the Humane Society of Boulder Valley and Mental Health Partners.